Posts categorized "Facebook"

Oops - Post Published On Wrong Site

Oops... this post was published on the wrong site - please see the article over on my Disruptive Conversations site at:

When Facebook Starts To Become More Useless - Irrelevant In-Feed Ads

Thank you!


Skype Opens Its Walls A Bit? Lets You IM Facebook Users Just Like Skype Users

skypelogo-shadow.pngDid Skype just add a XMPP gateway into their network and bring their walls down a bit more? Today's release of Skype 5.5 for Windows had one VERY cool piece of news:
Facebook integration
Now when you connect to Facebook you can see when your Facebook friends are online and IM with them directly from Skype.

Now I don't have Windows to test it out (as you would know from my earlier post), but in working with fellow blogger Jim Courtney who uses Skype on both operating systems, this has some interesting aspects to it.

For starters, in Skype 5.5, the chat with the Facebook user appears in your left-side list of chats just like a chat with a Skype user. You have the same user experience chatting with a FB user as with a Skype user. (Subject to the caveat that Jim found he couldn't edit a message sent to a FB user, but that makes sense given that the message would leave Skype's network to go over to Facebook's network.)

When Jim went into his Facebook contacts he found my name (he and I are friends on FB) that I was currently "offline":

Skype55fb1

He noted that he could call me via a regular phone number... but not through Skype, even though we are connected on Skype. (So a bit of future integration work that could be done.)

Once I opened a browser and logged into Facebook, I showed up to Jim as online:

Skype55fb2

Jim initiated a chat... and to me it seemed to be just like a regular Facebook chat:

Facebook skype55

On Jim's side, it looked like just a regular Skype chat.

This is VERY cool!

Why? Because this is really the first direct integration I am aware of between Skype and any other IM service. Sure, there are any number of services that people have connected to Skype to bridge Skype messages out to XMPP/Jabber or other networks... but they aren't directly supported by Skype and in my experience some of them haven't worked too well.

Now, I don't know how Skype actually accomplished the Facebook chat integration. I do know that Facebook supports XMPP (Jabber) for connections to external services for chat, so this would be one very obvious way for Skype to make the connection to Facebook. They might have done the integration at a deeper level. I don't know.

But if Skype did add an XMPP gateway to the edge of their network... that's great news... and perhaps may bode well for future integration with other IM services.

Skype 5.5 for Windows has a bunch of other updates, including those emoticons I ranted about, and if you are a Windows user I would suggest you look at upgrading.

Meanwhile, even if it is only on one platform, kudos to the folks at Skype for lowering the walls a bit and connecting out to the other IM networks!


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Is Facebook Planning an Official Voice Calling Feature? With Skype? And Would Facebook Users Care?

News today out of ReadWriteWeb and The Daily What is that a "Call" button was spotted briefly inside someone's Facebook profile:

facebookcall.jpg

RWW goes on to speculate about whether or not this could be part of the "deep integration" between Facebook and Skype announced last September. Mike Melanson at RWW wrote this:

The move would make a lot of sense for Facebook, which has worked recently to become the center of your online communication experience. Its recent "not email" announcement debuted a form of communication that would supposedly work seamlessly between devices, so that there would be little differentiation between messaging, email and Facebook chat. Voice calling between users, whether from browser to browser, phone to browser, or browser to phone, would just make sense in creating a more seamless communication experience.

Now, there is the obvious question -

is the screenshot real?
Or are we being hoaxed? Having personally been in a situation where I received an inadvertant preview of possible new Facebook features (which sadly have yet to materialize), I'm inclined to believe that the screenshoot could be real.

The Skype Connection?

But is it connected to Skype, as RWW wonders? The "deep integration" reported by RWW in September did turn into reality in October with the release of Skype 5.0 for Windows and the integrated Facebook panel. That release allowed you to:

  • see your Facebook News Feed in Skype
  • post status updates that can be synced with your Skype mood message
  • comment and like friends’ updates and wall posts
  • call and SMS your Facebook friends on their mobile phones and landlines
  • make a free Skype-to-Skype call if your Facebook friend is also a Skype contact

This brought Facebook into Skype... so why not a reciprocal exchange of bringing Skype into Facebook?

As Google continues to amass voice resources through acquisitions, there's also a certain sense to it in the battle among the giants.

But Will Facebook Users Actually USE Voice Calling?

The larger question to me is whether or not Facebook users would actually use a voice calling capability. One commenter on The Daily What story voiced an feeling I've often heard expressed:

fbandvoice.jpg

And indeed there are many phone/voice call applications already in existence for Facebook, some of which have been around for years. Back in October I reviewed one such app, the aptly named "Facebook Telephone" (in full disclosure, created by colleagues at Voxeo Labs as a demonstration of what could be done with the Phono SDK) and way back in April 2008 I reviewed an earlier Facebook application (also using Voxeo's platform). While applications like those have certainly seen some success, it hasn't been overwhelming... and begs the question of whether people inside the walls of Facebook truly want to interact via voice.

The Key Difference

The big difference from those applications and the "Call" feature we're all speculating about right now is exactly that...

all of the previous voice services are separate applications!

In order to use the app to communication with someone else inside of Facebook, both parties have to have the application installed.

There's the first barrier... and it's a huge one. It creates friction and no matter how easy the app creator makes it to install the app, it is still one more step that the recipient has to make in order to start communicating.

Now... imagine if Facebook just made voice calling part of the fabric of Facebook? What if everyone just got this "Call" button and were able to start making calls from their computer? Without any further installations of apps?

What if Facebook extended that to their mobile versions so that you could make calls directly from inside the app to anyone else? (You already can in the iPhone app... but only if your friend has entered a mobile phone number in their profile.)

Would this make Facebook more of a communications portal for you?

Stay tuned... the global war for your eyeballs... and your voice... is only going to get more crazy in the time ahead!


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Use "Facebook Telephone" to call FB friends - or anyone else!

fbtelephone.jpgWith Voxeo Labs' launch of the Phono software toolkit last weekend that lets you turn any browser into a phone or IM client, one of the more interesting sample applications released along with it was "Facebook Telephone", a Facebook application that lets you make phone calls from directly inside of Facebook.

In a post on the Phono blog, Chris Matthieu goes into detail about the application, how you can use it to call your friends... to call regular (PSTN) phone numbers... and also to call SIP addresses.

In using the app, I've found a couple of things rather cool:

  • The "phone-in-the-browser" has been seamless for me in the sense that after I approved the initial Flash security warning (and told it to remember my setting), it "just worked" and I was able to start speaking to people without any problems.

  • I like that you can call a friend on Facebook and if they don't have Facebook Telephone running in a browser it will automatically connect through to their mobile device.

  • It's cool that it works over WiFi... I'm looking forward to trying it out in various different locations. (like the next plane I'm on with WiFi ;-)

On the point about calling your friends, if you click the "Friends with Telephone" button you see a list of all your friends who have installed the application. If you click on their image you will call them right then from within your browser. As noted above, if they don't have the Facebook Telephone app running right then, it will ring through to the phone number they have set up in the application: fbtelephonefriends.jpg

One interesting point is that they never see my phone number - nor do I know theirs. Facebook Telephone combines the Phono client with the Tropo cloud communications service and creates an abstraction layer between you and the person you are calling.

You don't need to know the recipient's phone number... as the app just takes care of that routing for you. They see an incoming phone call from a number up on Tropo... preserving a level of anonymity between callers. Essentially, your Facebook friends list is already a master directory for messaging... now it is also that for telephone calls.

All this isn't to say the app is perfect... there can be some echo sometimes (a fact acknowledged by the Voxeo Labs team with this first release). And the current reliance on Flash means I can't use it on my iPad or iPhone.

Still, I think it's a cool use of Phono and I know Chris and the team have some even greater plans for the app.

If you'd like to try it out yourself, simply go to app.facebook.com/telephone (great URL, eh?) and step through the process of approving the app to connect to your FB account.

If you'd like to play with the technology behind the app, you can go to Phono.com and learn how to use the jQuery plugin ... and can go to Tropo.com and sign up for a free account to build multi-channel (voice, SMS, IM, Twitter) communications apps using web programming languages like ruby, PHP, python, JavaScript and Groovy.


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Skype 5.0 brings Facebook integration, group video - but ONLY if you are on Windows

skypefbphonebook.jpgSkype today released version 5.0 for Windows which looks quite cool...

but is also completely unusable to me.

First off, Skype 5.0 includes a brand new Facebook integration that wasn't in the beta program and, per Skype's blog post, let's you:

 

  • see your Facebook News Feed in Skype
  • post status updates that can be synced with your Skype mood message
  • comment and like friends’ updates and wall posts
  • call and SMS your Facebook friends on their mobile phones and landlines
  • make a free Skype-to-Skype call if your Facebook friend is also a Skype contact

Phil Wolff over at Skype Journal walks through the new release (which is where I got the screenshot at right) and shows how the integration works. You have a new "Facebook tab" in the 5.0 Skype version that has both a "News Feed" and a "Phonebook" subtab.

From what I've heard from folks trying it out this morning, the Phonebook does a one-time import of all your Facebook contacts and then you can call or SMS them via their regular PSTN phone (if it's in their Facebook profile) or via Skype if they are a contact. I'm not clear on how you keep it up-to-date with your Facebook friend list ... but I'm going to assume there is a re-import or something like that.

UPDATE #1: Jim Courtney tells me that the Phonebook appears to refresh every time you go into it and he has verified himself that information gets updated. Chaim Haas also notes that there are buttons to call or SMS people directly from within the NewsFeed - so if you were reading your Facebook NewsFeed and wanted to call or text someone related to their item in your feed you could do so right then.

As a huge daily user of Skype, I find this integration rather cool since it will let me reach people directly from within the Skype interface where I spend my time. Given that I find myself doing more text/chat interaction these days instead of voice, I'm not entirely sure how much I'll use the Phonebook... BUT... it does get closer to having a single directory that I can reference.

Skype 5.0 also has the group video calling that has been in all the betas and some other changes outlined in this video from Skype:

I do, though, have one issue with the content of the video...

The Failure of Skype 5.0

... Rick Osterloh says that group video is now rolled out to all users, which, of course, is completely false.

Group video calling is being rolled out to all Windows users.

Skype continues to miss the rise of Apple and the fact that so many of the early adopter set long ago left Windows for MacOS X. They continue to follow the fractured and fragmented product strategy that I've ranted about at length in the past (also here).

It's the same tired old story.

I'm a huge fan of Skype and a heavy daily user. I do video calls with people pretty much every day. I currently have 87 Skype chats open to various people, teams, projects and groups in which I participate. The main phone number I give to people on my blogs rings through to Skype (and my cell).

I'm a paying Skype customer.

Yet I am also on a Mac.

Along with 140 other heavy Skype-users at my company. Along with a good number of friends in the blogging community. Along with a ton of people in the IETF and bleeding-edge communication community.

I would love to write here about how great Skype 5.0 is ... and I'd love to use it and give Skype feedback... but I can't.

I of course realize that from a resource prioritization point-of-view, Skype's largest market it Windows. I get that. It's just too bad Skype can't figure out a way to come out on both platforms so that "all users" on both Mac and Windows could experience the cool new features. (Particularly since many of the Mac world are exactly the kinds of folks who seek out (and promote) "cool new features.") Of course that still leaves the Skype for Linux users out, too... but it would be a start.

Perhaps one day Skype will see the cross-platform light.... meanwhile, if you're on Windows, you can head over to Skype.com and download 5.0 today.

Have fun with it - maybe someday others of us will get to play with it, too.

UPDATE #2: Skype lead blogger Peter Parkes mentioned to me that he put up a post on the Skype Mac blog today - undoubtedly because he knew he'd get flak like this from people like me. The post is basically a repeat of the last Mac blog post back in May... that group video will be coming, etc., etc. Peter does, though, promise:

we intend to give our app for Mac OS X a complete overhaul, both in terms of the way it looks, and in terms of functionality

We'll see what that means :-) Well, and when...


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Equals' "Party Line" app uses Voxeo's platform to bring voice to Facebook

voxeologo.gifHave you ever wanted to quickly get into a conference call with a group of people? What if you could just call a number and initiate a conference call that automatically dialled out to bring in the other participants? Would you see yourself using this for a group (or groups) of your friends? Could you see this being useful for a group of coworkers? Over on Voxeo's blog today, I wrote about a new Facebook application called "Party Line" that does exactly this.

facebookpartyline.jpgAs I outline in the blog post, Party Line, available (to Facebook users) at www.equals.com/partyline lets you create an unlimited number of "party lines", each of which can have up to five participants. To initiate a group call, you either dial in to 1-877-4-BUZZ-ME or you initiate the call from within the Facebook page. The application calls all the other participants and brings you all into a group conference call. You can talk for as long as you want. No bridge numbers to remember. No passcodes. Very simple to use.

For Equals, the company who developed this Facebook application, this is their first product and platform. They've indicated that in the end they want this app to also work with OpenSocial and be able to connect into the other social networking services out there supporting OpenSocial. I'll be very interested to see how well it is adopted.

From a Voxeo point-of-view, as I mention later in the blog post, this is the first Facebook app (that we know of) that uses our SIP/XML application platform, so it is admittedly exciting for us to see. We know we have a great platform for developing these kind of voice applications, but to see someone else recognize that and actually go off and develop such an application is rather cool to see.

On a technical level, it's great to see an example of what you can do with Call Control XML (CCXML). Before joining Voxeo six months ago, I knew absolutely nothing about CCXML but as I learned about what it could do, I was truly amazed. Essentially, it is an XML layer that lets you drive and control SIP-based applications. There's an amazing number of tasks you can do with CCXML and it's something I'll be writing more about here and over on Voxeo's blogs in the future. (If you'd like to learn a bit more now, you can look at the CCXML documentation, check out some CCXML tutorial videos or look at the recent post about sending telephony presence to Twitter.)

Anyway, for the moment I would encourage you to check out my Voxeo blog post with more details about Party Line, install the Party Line app and try it out! Please do let us know what you think.

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How do YOU see social networking changing enterprise communication?

1F986311-DE40-482A-B982-3300FE408328.jpgHow do you see "social networking" and "social media" changing communication within companies, enterprises, etc.? How do you think blogs, wikis, etc. will change enterprise communication? What about Facebook and other similar sites?

What would you say on this topic to an audience at VoiceCon Orlando this week?

That's the task ahead of Irwin Lazar and I as we talk with Eric Krapf and Fred Knight in a keynote "conversation" from 10:30-11:00am on Wednesday. The panel, called "Social Networking Meets Enterprise Communication"has this for a description:

It's no secret that world of enterprise communications is undergoing a transformation; IP Telephony and Unified Communications are changing the nature of the game. Now new forms of interaction, which began in the consumer/personal communications market -- blogs, wikis and online services like Facebook are migrating into the enterprise. Where do these social networking systems and mindset fit into the enterprise communications landscape? Join us for a discussion about what's real today and what's likely to happen in the future.

Obviously, this is a topic about which I am rather opinionated and have been writing about in my various blogs for years (including this blog, as well as on Disruptive Conversations and in my reports into For Immediate Release), so I'm very much looking forward to the session with Irwin on Wednesday.

We've already got a long list of points we can cover... and obviously won't be able to cover them all in only 30 minutes (and we've got a hard stop at 11am as what's next is a presentation with Al Gore and Cisco CEO John Chambers!). But I thought to myself - how can I do a keynote panel on the impact of social networking in enterprise communication if I don't somehow include social networking into the prep for that panel?

So here's my question for you all -

What do you see as the top one or two ways that social networking / social media will change the ways in which people communicate within enterprises?
Both internally among employees and also externally between the company and its customers and partners?

To perhaps get the conversation going, here are a few of the topics that Irwin and I already have in our list:

  • interest in the opportunities to improve collaboration among employees, especially virtual/distributed
  • interest in the opportunities to improve collaboration with customers and partners/vendors
  • concerns over enterprise usage of public sites/services, i.e. what security is there for corporate data out on these sites?
  • challenges with rolling out these services internally (from a deployment point-of-view as well as business case, who owns it, integration of different systems, etc.)
  • expectations of new generation of incoming workers
What do you think? How do you see social apps/services changing enterprise communication? (Or do you take the contrarian view that it won't?) Your feedback is definitely welcome... (thanks in advance)

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Today's Squawk Box podcast - A conversation with Jeff Pulver about VON.x

squawkbox.jpgFor some time now, I've been participating in the daily "Squawk Box" podcast hosted by Alec Saunders. These calls take place using Iotum's Facebook app - "Free Conference Calling" - and they are, in fact, free outside of your normal costs to connect to the calls. I haven't made it there every day, but I've tried to get there when I can. I know Alec well and the calls also include many familiar faces like Jim Courtney, Ken Camp and more.

Anyway, the call today (March 6) was with Jeff Pulver about his upcoming VON.x show. It was a fun conversation and VON should definitely be a great show again this year. (Even if I'll be on the other coast at VoiceCon!)

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Voice mashups - Notes on Alec's conference call today

UPDATE, Jan 11: The recording of this conference call is now available.


As I mentioned in an earlier post today, Alec Saunders convened a 30-minute conference call today on voice mashups. The call was recorded and will be available as a podcast from his site. (I'll add the link here once I'm online.)

I was traveling down through the state of Vermont today and so while I had no Internet access I did call in and joined the call from my Blackberry. (My wife was driving the car at the time.) I wrote down the following notes on my laptop during the call.


Alec introduced the call, mentioned that it would be recorded and distributed as a podcast. He then muted all the callers except for himself, Thomas Howe, Jim Courtney and Andy Abramson. For callers with Facebook open, they could press a button to "raise their hand" at which point Alec could unmute them. I was calling in on my cell phone while traveling with no Internet access, so for me it was to press "*2" to raise my hand.

Alec tossed out the first question which was "what is a voice mashup?" Thomas laid out one definition which Andy then amplified. Alec then asked if a mashup could involve something like Skype to which Jim described the results of the Skype Mashup contest and the winning PamFax app. Alec asked for examples and Thomas gave several. Alec asked how this looked like to the end-user. Thomas mentioned that it could be a web interface, but it might also simply be a telephone interface. The user would just call a number and do some kind of service. (Thanks for the mention of Voxeo, Thomas!)

Alec asked next "why do people build these?" Thomas... they are lightweight, easy to put together, easy to build for small interest groups (and therefore easy to put together a business case). Most ubiquitous interface is the phone. Business case can be small, but because of the architecture the application can actually scale massively if necessary. Jim... talked about ROI of PamFax... ability to take business documents from one location to another. Andy... mashup apps need to serve a purpose. Small, focused apps will be the general rule. However, that can be repurposed. You can globally deliver an app to small pockets of people who need that application. Andy recommends you look at Salesforce.com's app exchange. Mentions Mashery and the work they are doing looking into how you manage the rights around the use of mashup apps.

Alec - "So how do you monetize mashups?" Thomas... at least 3 hooks for monetization: 1) make businesses run faster, eliminate delays; 2) customer satisfaction - giving users a view into your system without; 3) make businesses more efficient. Question from (Dean - someone on wall) - who is making the money? Thomas - most of the work is in professional services. Focus is on developing apps, not necessarily in sale of apps.

(At this point I pressed *2 to raise my hand to ask a question related to monetization. A few minutes later I pressed *2 again.)

Tony from Voxalot talked about his voice mashup for an Australian dating site that allows users to be anonymous callers. Jim Courtney mentioned that PamFax is getting revenue on every transaction. Tony, I believe, also mentioned that Alec is getting revenue based on the usage of his conference call app.

Thomas... mashup architectures allow you to not have to pay upfront capital costs. You don't have to pay for a phone number and manage it, for instance. You can just temporarily use a phone number. Mashup architectures lower the barriers to entry.

As it was now 10:00am, Alec suggested that we should wrap up the call and throw it out to the assembled crowd for questions. It sounded from the tone of his voice that he wasn't seeing anyone raising their hand (and I was wondering what happened to my *2!). Thomas started answering...


... and then I entered one of those glorious pockets of Vermont where Verizon has no cell phone coverage - and so I was dropped off the call. Since it sounded like it was going to be wrapping up, I didn't bother calling back in a few minutes later when I was back in a coverage area.

All in all it was an interesting discussion. It undoubtedly could have gone on much longer. As I've been wanting to write more about this whole topic of voice mashups, I'll probably have some further posts on this soon.

It was also an interesting usage of Alec's Facebook "Free Conference Calling" application. The Iotum gang has certainly developed that app further and I'll definitely be looking at it again and toying with some ideas about how to use it. The recording feature is certainly an interesting one for someone who likes producing podcasts... :-) (Although it does not seem to be wideband so you are still limited to lousy PSTN audio.)

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Truphone embeds an IAX softphone into Facebook that lets you make calls to regular phones for free

200711301329The major product Dean Elwood has been working on now that he has moved to Truphone is the Facebook application that Truphone announced two days ago. Their blog provides a link to the Facebook application and, of course, in true Truphone style, offers us a video with cows:

I've not yet had a chance to do more with it than install it and play a bit with the configuration options:

200711301124
but I'm very much looking forward to giving it a try. There are several interesting aspects to this app for me:

  • It is an embedded softphone (Java-based). No extra software you need. Just click the button and you can call the person who has it on their Facebook profile. To my knowledge this is the first time we've seen this in a Facebook app.
  • From the user side, you can link that button to any of the following:
    • Your Truphone number.
    • Any regular landline or mobile phones in the US or Canada.
    • A SIP address.
    • A Google Talk address.
  • A GrandCentral phone number.
  • The Facebook app uses the IAX protocol used primarily by Asterisk. This gets around all of the firewall/NAT traversal issues that plague SIP.

All of that makes for an interesting new app inside of Facebook. Now, there are already a number of "click-to-call" Facebook apps out there (some of which I've covered here) but in his announcement of moving to Truphone, Dean talks about what is different:

There are several click to call/callback/speak type applications already on Facebook. The differentiator here, and the interesting part about this application (and also the hardest part) is that we’ve embedded a JAVA based softphone right into the heart of Facebook. This makes the experience from a user point of view seamless with the Facebook environment. The user never leaves Facebook, they speak into Facebook. Additionally, the "call me" button for this application is not restricted to your own profile page - it functions as a Facebook attachment, which means it can be dropped onto a friends Wall, or added to a Facebook mail message or any other attachment-accepting application which exists on Facebook now or might do in the future.

So now Facebook users can put this "Call Me For Free" button in other locations within Facebook... and Facebook users can use this as a way to stay inside of Facebook but yet new mix in voice communication to people outside of Facebook. Now I can look up someone in Facebook and then simply click the call button to reach them by voice directly.

I look forward to experimenting with the application in the next week or two. Those of you who are Facebook users and want to try it out can simply install the application.

What do you think? Do you think people will use this app? Does voice have a role mixed into a social network like Facebook?

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