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Posts from December 2015

Talko's Purchase By Microsoft Shows The Challenge Of The Directory Dilemma

Today Microsoft announced that they acquired the technology of Talko, a communication app created by Ray Ozzie and launched back in September 2014. Fortune has an article on the acquistion, as do a good number of other media sites.

After Talko first launched, I wrote about my initial experience - and the problem I had of Talko working through my home firewall. But I was intrigued by the possibilities laid out in a Medium article about how Talko could change communication and integrate voice, chat and messaging in interesting ways.

The reality, though, was that Talko was a classic case of suffering from the Directory Dilemma - as I said in that article:

People will only USE a communication application if the people they want to talk to are using the application.

And that was true for me... I tried out Talko, as I try out many apps. I used it for a while. And then... I stopped.

The people with whom I communicate were not regularly using Talko.

You can see the recognition of this dilemma in today's front page of Talko's web site:

However, as engaged as many of you have been, the reality is that the broad-based success of communications apps tends to be binary: A small number of apps earn and achieve great viral growth, while most fall into some stable niche.

For all the value and enjoyment it's delivered, and for all the team's listening and perseverance, Talko was largely on the path to filling a (passionate) niche. We're in this to have great impact, so it's time for a change.


We deeply appreciate the commitment that so many of you made in betting on Talko. You invested your time and your reputation to convince your friends and co-workers to use the product with you.

This is the reality that messaging / communication apps have to face today. Either somehow build that massive directory - or be happy (and financially stable) within the certain niches and communities in which your product can thrive.

What's next for the Talko team (minus Ray Ozzie, who has said he will not be re-joining Microsoft) isn't 100% clear. Both the Microsoft and Talko posts today are vague, with the latter saying:

As part of the Skype team, we'll leverage Talko’s technology and the many things we’ve learned during its design and development. We'll strive to deliver the best of our product’s innovations far more broadly than on our current path.


Looking forward, we hope to hear from you again as we find ways to deliver the best of Talko in Skype.

We'll have to see what pieces of Talko they bring into Skype.

Congrats to Ray Ozzie and the Talko team - and to Microsoft - on this acquisition. I hope it does work well for all involved.

Meanwhile, we can look and wonder which of the zillion new messaging apps out there will be the next to fold into a larger player...

P.S. There's a thread on Hacker News about today's announcement and there was a really long thread on HN back in 2014 when Talko was announced that may still be of interest.