To No Surprise, Indian Telcos Want to Block WhatsApp OTT VoIP

Whatsapp logoTo the surprise of absolutely no one, telcos in India are objecting to plans for WhatsApp to launch VoIP and complaining about it to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). So reports The Hindu Business Line that includes this glorious quote from a representative of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI):
“Allowing the use of VoIP/ Internet telephony at such massive scale without licensing regime would lead to a significant disruption in the existing business of TSPs and can substantially derail their investment capability”

Gee... allowing a new innovative entrant into the market would lead to "significant disruption in the existing business" of the existing telcos.

Yes. Exactly.

And the representative further pointed out that this could lead to a "significant loss of revenues" for the government in the form of taxes.

Yes. Exactly.

This is the nature of Over-The-Top (OTT) applications and services. In providing better services for customers they very often DO cause "significant disruption" to existing businesses.

This is the nature of innovation.

This is the value of the "permissionless innovation" that has made the Internet the amazing tool for communication, collaboration and creation that it is today.

The folks at WhatsApp don't need to ask anyone to roll out VoIP, as articles seem to point to them being ready to do soon. (See also this AndroidWorld.nl article in Dutch.)

They just do it.

And... of course... the legacy telcos fight back using every tool in their formidable arsenal, which includes of course legislation and government lobbying such as that shown in this article.

India has NOT been a very friendly place for VoIP historically, and so we'll have to see what happens here...

[UPDATE: Aswath Rao says I'm wrong with this last sentence and that India has been friendly to pure IP-to-IP VoIP systems.]

... but while they can attempt to throw up as many roadblocks as they can... in the end my bet would be on the OTT services and applications to win.

They provide the services the customers want... and can probably do so at a much more reasonable cost... and in the user experience that the customers want.

A classic example of "disruptive telephony"...


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Congrats to the Wire Team for TNW Apps of The Year Selection

Congratulations to the Wire.com team for having Wire be selected as one of The Next Web's "Apps of the Year"!

Tnw app of year wire

TNW's Napier Lopez talks about how beautiful Wire is and how much it is a platform that he wants to use... and suddenly he is the one asking people to join him.

Many of comments mirror my own opinion of how much I enjoy using the app. It's just a pleasure to use for communication.

Napier Lopez does, though, hit Wire's real challenge:

Still, I mentioned earlier that I started using other messaging platforms because my friends made me, and therein lies the crux with Wire, or any new messaging platofrm, really: you need to get users on the platform.

This is indeed the "user directory problem" that I wrote about at great length. And I, too, hope that the Wire team - and we all as Wire users - can find ways to help bring people to the platform.

Meanwhile, congrats to the Wire team for this recognition - and I look forward to seeing what may be coming up next in the app!

P.S. I notice a version 1.2 for iOS just appeared in the AppStore and it includes the ability to invite people to join, so that's a start....


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Skype Translator Looks Intriguing

While it is only a "preview" release and is only available to people using Skype on Windows 8.1, Microsoft's new Skype Translator announced on Monday looks very cool! As they state:
The preview program will kick-off with two spoken languages, Spanish and English, and 40+ instant messaging languages will be available to Skype customers who have signed-up via the Skype Translator sign-up page and are using Windows 8.1 on the desktop or device.

The very well-done video shows the real potential, though:

I think many of us have always wanted the Star Trek Universal Translator and while this "preview" from Microsoft is not yet near that sci-fi ideal, it's definitely a very intriguing step along that direction. I like the idea that it can do both speech and text translation. Given my travel to different parts of the world, the idea of being able to whip out my smartphone and be able to translate to and from another language is definitely welcome.

I'm told the Windows 8.1 restriction is because it is based on Microsoft's Cortana 'personal assistant' technology. Given that I have no Windows 8.1 devices nor expect to anytime soon, I won't personally get a chance to check out this Skype Translator preview. (Although obviously I would expect Microsoft is hoping that perhaps this may help drive some people to use Windows 8.1.)

On a macro level, I think it's great that Microsoft/Skype is undertaking this kind of research and development. Certainly anything that can help bridge communication challenges is welcome in this global age!


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The Directory Problem - The Challenge For Wire, Talko And Every Other "Skype-Killer" OTT App

Skype directoryAs much as I am enjoying the new Wire app, there is a fundamental problem that Wire faces... as well as Talko, Firefox Hello and every other Over-The-Top (OTT) or WebRTC application that is seeking to become THE way that we communicate via voice, chat and/or video from our mobile phones and desktops. That is:
How do they gather the "directory" of people that others want to talk to?

The fundamental challenge all of these applications face is this:

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

And where I say "talk" it could also be "chat" or "message" or... pick your communication verb.

It's all about the "directory" of users.

There's a war out there right now... and it's a war for the future of our communications between each other. It's a war for messaging... and it's also a war for voice and video.

And it all comes back to... which communications application or service can provide the most comprehensive directory of users?

Which communications tool will be the one that people use the most? Will any of them replace the default communications of the mobile phone?

NOTE: A number of updates have been added to the bottom of this post.

Today's Fragmented User Experience

The reality is that today we use several different tools for real-time communications ... and that creates a bit of a frustrating user experience. If I want to send a message to Joe, do I send him a message on Skype? Facebook? WhatsApp? Google+? Twitter? SMS? iMessage? BBM? Wire? email?

If I want to call him and speak via voice or video, do I use Skype? Facebook Messenger? Google+ Hangouts? Facetime? Wire? Talko? Viber? Firefox Hello? <insert WebRTC or OTT app du jour here>? Or just call him on his regular old phone line?

By trial and error we start to figure out which of the people with whom we regularly communicate are available over which channels. Certain family members may be through Facebook... others through WhatsApp or Skype. Work colleagues through Jabber or Yammer... except for some of them who primarily use Skype. These friends detest Facebook and so they are in Google+ ... and then there's that guy who thinks all of these new apps are junk and only wants to talk to you via SMS and phone.

It's a mess.

And every new app and service wants to fix it... and wants to be THE communications application/service that you use.

Skype/Microsoft Has A Directory

Over the years, I think it would be impossible to count the number of times we've seen new communications applications trumpted as "Skype-killers". "This new app/service WILL be the one to replace Skype. It's new. It's better. It supports (something). Everyone will switch and the world will be so much better!"

Except they don't switch.

Even when Skype's audio quality is no longer what it once was.

And why not?

Because Skype has a massive user directory.

When I speak at a conference I can ask the attendees "who has a Skype ID?" and usually almost every hand goes up. They may not use Skype as their primary communication tool, but they have an ID. They can be found on Skype.

Now a large part of this is because Skype has now been around for over 11 years and truly led the disruption that "consumer VoIP" has caused in the larger telecom industry. Part of it is that Skype prioritized the user experience and made it drop-dead simple to install and use. Part of it is that Skype made it easy to find other Skype users.

But the point is that Skype amassed this huge directory - and now is the default way that many of us communicate via voice or video over the Internet. Certainly many of us, myself included, would like a better mechanism at this point... but we still use Skype because that's where the people are! The directory of users is there.

Facebook Has A Directory (Two, Actually)

Facebook messenger callWhen it comes to a user directory, certainly one of the biggest in the world right now is Facebook. With over a billion users Facebook has an enormous ability to connect people together.

With Facebook Messenger, they are definitely aiming to replace SMS and become THE messaging application you use on your mobile phone.

And now in many regions of the world, Facebook lets you initiate voice conversations through simply clicking on a telephone icon in the Messenger interface.

They make it simple and easy... and it works because "everyone" has a Facebook account (or at least 1 billion people do).

Facebook has a massive user directory.

(Of course, every chat and voice conversation can then be mined for data for Facebook advertisers... but that's a topic for another post...)

Facebook actually as two massive user directories if you consider that they also own WhatsApp and most stats right now say that WhatsApp has over 600 million users. (Which is actually more than Facebook Messenger, which recently crossed the 500 million user mark.)

Put these two together and while there is certainly duplication between the two directories, they do represent a huge directory of users.

P.S. And Facebook actually has a third user directory in the form of Instagram (which now has 300 million users)... but we've not yet seen them do anything with real-time communications there.

Google Has A Directory

And then of course Google has its own massive directory. Everyone who has a "Google Account". Every Gmail user. Every Google+ user. Every Google docs user.

Hundreds of millions of Google users.

Google's focus today seems to be on Hangouts, which is available from the desktop and also from the iOS and Android mobile platforms. While Hangouts started out inside of Google+, Google has separated the application out. I'll note that just today they are rolling out a new version of Hangouts on Android that lets you add your phone number so that you are easier to find. They may at some point also integrate their Google Voice offering better into Hangouts.

Apple Has A Directory

Apple idIt goes without saying that Apple has its own massive directory from the hundreds of millions of iPhone and Mac users, almost all of whom get integrated into Apple's iMessage and Facetime services through their Apple ID. With iMessage and Facetime, Apple's directory includes my own phone number, as well as my email addresses.

Apple also makes the user experience insanely simple. When I go to call a contact, I am offered the choice of calling them via Facetime (audio or video) or the regular phone. When I send a message, Apple automagically sends the message over iMessage if the recipient is registered in Apple's directory. As a user I have no clue about this unless I realize that "blue bubbles" are iMessage and "green bubbles" are regular SMS.

The point is that Apple can do all this and make it so simple because they have this massive user directory.

LINE And WeChat Have Directories

While we in North America don't tend to know their names, there are apps building huge user directories in Asia. WeChat, based in China, now has over 468 million monthly active users worldwide. LINE, out of Japan and used in much of Asia, has over 170 million monthly active users. There are others such as KakaoTalk in Korea that have large directories.

The Telcos Have Directories

Of course, the original user directories for mobile phone users reside with all of the mobile service providers / telephone companies. They have the customer names and phone numbers. Their challenge is one of sharing that information between each other - and also their general challenges with embracing the world of OTT communications apps that threaten their basic revenue streams.

Some telcos have tried - and continue to try. Telefonica had "Tu ME" and now has "Tu Go". Orange has Libon. T-Mobile did have "Bobsled" but that seems to have disappeared. And then of course there was (and still is, although on life support) Joyn, the traditional telcos attempt to provide rich communication services and fight back against OTT apps. As Dean Bubley wrote at the time, RCS/Joyn was in trouble from the start and now seems to have faded from consideration.

I should note that Telefonica is doing some great work in the WebRTC space and is involved with Mozilla's latest Firefox Hello effort. There are other traditional carriers who are also doing some good work with WebRTC and other OTT works ... but I've still not really seen any of them figure out how to tie their apps and services back to the large user directories they collectively have.

Everyone Wants To OWN The Directory

Notice a common thread across all of these directories?

They are all owned / controlled by corporations - some of whom are among the largest in the world.

They have NO interest in sharing their directories.

They are all about the "lock-in".

Well... I should say... they are glad to "share" in the sense that they are glad for you to use their directory as a source of identity in your application or service. "Login with Facebook" or "Login with Google" or "Login with Twitter" ...

A better way to say it would be:

They have no interest in federation / interoperability between directories.

They want to own the directory. They want to be THE source of "identity" ... but that's a topic for yet another post.

And each of the ones I've listed is a commercial entity with their own investors or shareholders and their own ideas of what they will do with your data and your communication...

(NOTE: This is not a new problem - I wrote about "walled gardens" back in 2007 with regard to email and messaging - some names have changed but the problem remains.)

One Directory To Rule Them All?

Amidst all this we've seen various attempts to provide a global directory for IP communications. ENUM was one in the open standard space, but the original vision of "public ENUM" ran into a barrage of security and privacy issues and faded from view. (ENUM is still heavily used within SIP-based networks either within telcos or within peering relationships between telcos.)

On the corporate side, he original Google Voice was an attempt to put users in control, at least as far as a telephone number. Give out one number and have it ring many devices or apps. The .TEL people tried this with their original vision for that top-level domain. iNum tried to offer this with their numbers. Many other attempts have been made...

The question with all of these is how to make the directory accessible to other entities in a secure fashion - and how to deal with privacy issues, telemarketers, spammers, attackers, etc.

Back to the "Directory Problem"

How, then, does a new startup like Wire or Talko or Firefox Hello or whoever-releases-their-WebRTC-app-today build up a significant enough directory of users so that the application is usable by large numbers of people?

How do they compete with these massive user directories being built by Facebook, Google, Apple and others?

I don't know.

(If I did I'd probably start up a company... ;-) )

What I do know is that, as I said in my initial thoughts on Wire, "my iPhone is littered with the dead carcasses of so many other apps that have launched trying to be THE communication platform we all want to use."

Some may opt to use the identity systems of one of the major vendors mentioned before - but now you are putting your user directory in the hands of some other entity and relying on them to be there. And... you are excluding people who may not use that system.

Some apps/services may make it easy for you to "find your friends" through using your "social graph"... the connections you have on Facebook, Google, etc.

Some apps use your phone number as an identifier, but they still have to build up their own directory of users.

I don't know the answer... but I see this as a fundamental challenge for any new entrant in the space. How do they gain the directory of users so that people will be able to communicate with others using this new service?

THAT is what the team at Wire needs to answer... and Talko... and every other app.

Unless, of course, they just want to be happy as a smaller, more niche player.

But most of these apps and services want to be THE communication platform you use more than any other. Their success - and funding - is tied to that goal.


A Final Thought - The Bigger Picture

Let me end with one thought... this "directory problem" is in fact tied to the larger challenge of "identity" on the Internet. Back in the pre-Internet days our "identity" for real-time communications was simple - our telephone number. We might have had several phone numbers, but they were ours and they were/are globally unique and globally routable.

With the Internet, we gradually moved to where email addresses were (and still are in many ways) our "identity" online and became the identifiers that we used for many forms of communication.

BUT... when we've moved to IP-based real-time communications, first with instant-messaging / chat and then with voice and video, we've also moved into a realm of fractured identities and identifiers with, as noted above, many different companies vying to have us use their system so that their directory is the most complete and comprehensive.

I do definitely worry about a future in which our identities and the user directories are controlled by large corporations. This, to me, seems like it could be a severe barrier to the "permissionless innovation" that has brought about the "Internet of opportunity" that we have today.

I'd like to hope that we'll arrive at some form of distributed and decentralized identities and directories that can be federated together so that people can find each other. (Which is why I'm intrigued by what the Matrix.org folks and others are doing.) I do worry, though, that the financial incentives are there for the larger corporate players to fight each other for dominance... and leave us regular users of the Internet without a choice.

Thoughts?


An audio commentary on this topic is available on SoundCloud:


UPDATE #1 - On Twitter, Aswath Rao asserted that Firefox Hello doesn't have the directory problem because it provides a way to pass a URL out to anyone so that they can simply call you at that URL. I documented this myself in a post back on December 2nd. I can see his point, but I would argue that for Firefox Hello to be truly useful to me in my regular ongoing communications, I need some form of a "directory", either as a directory in the cloud maintained by Mozilla, or as a local address book in my Firefox browser that keeps track of those URLs. To the degree that Mozilla wants to let Firefox Hello users build up their contact list, I think they still have this issue of building the directory.

UPDATE #2 - In the comments to this post, Tim Panton points out that in many cases people do not want to be contacted. I agree, and in fact I think that the prevalence of email spam is in part what has driven so much of us to separate (walled gardens) messaging apps such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. Within those walls I have MUCH stronger control over who may contact me at what point. I do agree that any communications app/service needs those kind of controls - whether that is part of the directory or part of the client application or in the service infrastructure seems to be a bit of an implementation consideration.

UPDATE #3 - The folks at FireRTC contend that they don't have to worry about the directory because they are leveraging PSTN telephone numbers. As I replied, they can certainly use the phone number as an identifier to locate other users. This is a great idea and is done by many similar apps, including Facetime, WhatsApp, Viber and more. BUT... all that does is help bootstrap the directory creation process. They still have to build their directory so that users of their app can find and contact other users.

UPDATE #4 - Aswath and I have been engaged in a Twitter discussion where he points out that WebRTC addresses can be much more decentralized like email addresses have been. He argues that they can provide much greater richness and freedom than a static directory of users.

He's right... BUT... we now come back to the "discovery" issue that directories also address. How do I find your WebRTC URL to call you at? Sure, you can email it or IM it to me ... and I can then store it in my address book or contact list. But somehow I have to get it first - and I have to know that it is the current and best address to use for you.

I often use Facebook to send a private message to someone because it's easier than finding their email address and sending them a message. Now, if I synced my contact lists across all my devices perhaps it would be easier... but I don't and so sometimes FB messaging is easiest. I can see the same kind of thing happening with WebRTC URLs.

UPDATE #5 - In response to this post, Phil Wolff wrote a long series of tweets with ideas for further research on this topic.


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Catching Up With Mitel ...

Mitel logo 2014By way of a tweet I stumbled upon analyst Blair Pleasant's UC Strategies post, "Change - The Only Thing That's Constant", that showed me that while I've been off in the worlds of IPv6 and DNSSEC there has been a great amount of activity happening in the world of my former employer Mitel.

Heck, I didn't even realize they had a new logo! :-)

But indeed they do (apparently back in 2013 in October 2014 (see comments))... and Blair's great look at the world of Unified Communications mentions that and a good bit more. I was aware of the acquisition of Aastra, but did not realize that PrairieFyre had finally been folded into Mitel (it had always seemed to be a likely acquisition candidate as its products worked primarily with Mitel's systems).

With my focus changing a bit, and most of my interest here on Disruptive Telephony focused around WebRTC and some of the newer disruptions to Internet communications, the last time I really mentioned Mitel was back in April with the passing of Simon Gwatkin. My posts about Mitel prior to that go back to 2011 and before.

In looking at Mitel's web site, their rebranding is clear in so many ways. From the nice clean website to the "Mi<whatever>" product naming... there's obvious a great amount of work that's gone on.

Congratulations to the Mitel team, too, on being named a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for UC. Having worked with Gartner analysts in the past on these reports (as a vendor representative), I know what a huge amount of effort goes in to making your case for why your company should be positioned highly - and I also know how powerfully these reports can help in enterprise sales. I read the UC Magic Quadrant report, too, and Gartner had very nice words about Mitel.

While I no longer really focus on the IP-PBX and the "enterprise" side of UC, it's great to see this evolution of Mitel. I still know many excellent people who work there and certainly during my time there (2001-2007) the R&D teams were (and presumably still are) some of the best in the industry.

Congrats to all involved at Mitel!


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How To Add An Emoji Character To Your Name In The Wire App

Because I keep getting asked.... here is how you can add an emoji / emoticon to your name inside the new Wire app on Mac OS X / iOS / Android. (The Wire app that I wrote about yesterday and the day before.)

Many people have been asking why some names have a symbol after them inside of Wire, such as Olle's:

Olle wire

Or these:

Wire emoji randy luca

The answer about how to do this is simple...

YOU JUST ADD AN EMOJI CHARACTER TO YOUR NAME!

Yep... that's it!

Adding an Emoji On Mac OS X

In the Mac OS X client, you click on your name, and then the pencil next to your name:

Wire edit name

When you are then in the edit box, you can type the magic Mac OS X keystroke to bring up the emoji panel:

Control + Command + Space

Ta da! All the emoji you could ever want...

Adding an Emoji on iOS

Similarly, you just go into the Wire app on iOS and click on your name at the top of your list of contacts. You should now be in edit mode:

Wire ios

Then you just add an emoji. Now, there may be easier ways to do this, but I had previously added "Emoji" as a new keyboard on my iPhone using:

Settings -> General -> Keyboard -> Keyboards

This then lets me press the "switch keyboard" button on the bottom of the iOS keyboard and switch to the Emoji keyboard and enter characters:

Ios switch keyboard

Ta da! All the emoji you could ever want...

Wire emoji chicken

Yes, it's that easy.

Adding an Emoji on Android

I have no idea how to do this... because I don't have an Android device right now... but I have to imagine it is basically the same thing. Edit your name. Enter an emoji.

Why Not More Than 1 Emoji?

If you can enter one emoji, why not two or three?

Sure.

Go nuts!

Have fun!

Add however many you want... it's your name as seen by the rest of the world on Wire. :-)

And now with this "problem" solved, we now return you to more serious topics...


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More Observations About The "Wire" App

After yesterday's launch of Wire, I continued to use it a bit today and am writing these notes, mostly for my own memory.

Group Chats ARE Persistent

In my post yesterday I said that it seemed like Wire group chats were "persistent" (something I'd previously written about with regard to Skype). Today I can confirm that they ARE persistent. When I fired up the Wire app this morning I received all the messages that had been posted into the group chat overnight while I'd been offline.

Further, when I went to add someone to the group chat, I received this message:

Wire add people

The Wire team also deserves credit for how smoothly they make the scrolling back through the chat history. Works very well!

No IPv6... yet

Friends tested Wire in an IPv6-only network and confirmed that it unfortunately does not yet work. In reaching out to someone at Wire the word was that they are definitely investigating this to see what can be done. The issue is that the Wire app connects to Amazon EC2 servers - so it's really an issue of Amazon's capabilities.

I will say again that Wire at the very least deserves credit for coming out with a website, www.wire.com, what works over IPv6! That immediately puts them far ahead of most other communications startups.

The Mac OS X Client Rocks!

Wow! What a great desktop client! It works extremely well. I loved the ability to drag and drop images directly into a chat window. Calls worked great from the client. So far a great experience!

The Heavy Use Of Profile Pictures Takes Getting Used To

The profile photo you use winds up being the background for the entire screen on the mobile device - or for the sidebar in the Mac and iPad clients. And that photo changes to be of the last person with whom you communicated. Sometimes that can lead to a bit of strange user view depending upon the profile photo used. Here's one that worked fine for me:

TJ Evans

... but others were a bit strange. The ubuiquitous presence of the photos does take a bit to get used to.

The Use Of Colors Is Fun

Wire lets you choose a color in the settings. This is then used for the highlighting and cursor color that you see. It also shows up in other places such as this listing of people:

Top people

... where it shows the colors people are using. I can see people having fun with this.

Pings Are Useful

At first I was skeptical of what a "ping" could really be useful for (remember Facebook's "Poke"?). But then a friend sent a ping while I was off in some other app - on my Mac I got this nice big box:

Ping

I could then just hit "REPLY" and flip over to the Wire app. Of course, he sent another ping and I then had the option to silence the pings:

Ping

It was a useful way to know there was something to pay attention to over in Wire. Obviously this could be abused... I've not yet checked into what settings there are to control this.

More To Explore...

I continue to be quite impressed with both the iOS and Mac versions of Wire. More thoughts as I get a chance to experiment further...

P.S. If you are using Wire, feel free to find me as "Dan York" or "[email protected]" ...


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Initial Thoughts On "Wire", The New Communication App From Ex-Skypers

Wire com 400Another remarkable day in Internet communications! Today brought the launch of "Wire", a "modern communications network" that runs on iOS, Android, Mac OS X and soon in WebRTC-equipped web browsers.

My first thought was naturally - do we really need YET-another-OTT-communication app?

After all, my iPhone is littered with the dead carcasses of so many other apps that have launched trying to be THE communication platform we all want to use. (And indeed I've written about many of them here on this site.)

But what makes Wire different for me from so many other similar apps that have launched (and faded) is really the PEOPLE involved. The news announcement mentions, of course, Skype co-founder Janus Friis as one of the big names behind Wire. Jonathan Christensen is also the co-founder and CEO of Wire. The news post says this:

The company's team comprises former product and technology leaders from Apple, Skype, Nokia, and Microsoft. Christensen held leadership roles at Microsoft and Skype, and was co-founder and CEO at Camino Networks. Along with Christensen, founders include Alan Duric, Wire’s CTO, a co-founder of Telio (Oslo exchange TELIO) and co-founder of Camino (acquired by eBay/Skype); and Priidu Zilmer, Wire’s head of product design, who led design teams at Vdio and Skype. Wire’s Chief Scientist Koen Vos, created SILK and co-created Opus, the standards for fidelity and intelligibility in voice over IP that billions of people use today.

I've known Jonathan over many years from his time at Skype. Alan Duric is a personal friend from the world of SIP, IETF and more. Some of the others are names I've known - and I've been told privately of others who are there, including apparently Jaanus Kase, who was one of the first working on Skype's community relations back in 2006/2007.

It certainly looks like an excellent team!

Does that mean it will succeed? Not necessarily... but it certainly has a far greater chance in my mind than many of the other attempts.

I have a GREAT amount I want to write about with regard to Wire, but for today I just want to write a few initial thoughts.

VERY Minimalist User Interface

When they say that Wire is about "simple, beautiful conversations", they aren't joking about the "simple" part. The user interface is extremely minimalist. All based on gestures and revealing just the information you need.

It's very cool as you get used to it... but it's also a bit non-intuitive - at least for older greybeards like me. At one point I simply wanted to reply in text and wound up calling someone (Alan, as it happened).

It is definitely great to see someone experimenting with a new UI to the degree that they have.

I installed it on both my iPhone 5s and my older iPad2. It worked great on both devices. The iPad, in particular, had a very nice view in the landscape mode. I did not yet install it on my Mac but spoke with several people who did.

Chats With Photos, SoundCloud and YouTube

When you start chatting with someone, it's very easy to add photos. You also could just drop in a link to a SoundCloud sound or a YouTube video and the player would automagically appear in the chat stream. And yes... animated GIFs work, too.

Call Quality - and Chats During The Call

I made several calls today and the quality was excellent. All high-quality voice. Presumably using the Opus codec or something similar. It's great that during the call you still have the full chat capability as I was sharing text and photos with the person I called.

Persistent Group Chats

I was extremely pleased to see how wonderfully well the "group chats" worked. Someone pulled a bunch of us "early adopters" into a chat room and it felt like we were back in 2006 or so in the early days of Skype and many of the early VoIP offerings. A very pleasant experience.

The group chat also synced very nicely between devices. A message I wrote on my iPad showed up just moments later on my iPhone. Others reported a similar experience with the Mac client.

Perhaps best of all the group chats appeared to be persistent group chats. After shutting down the app and then reconnecting later, I seemed to get all the messages that had been exchanged when I was offline. I've written before about the power of persistent group chats in Skype, and it was good to see what looked like something similar here. (Need to do more testing to confirm... but it looked good.)

What's Missing?

I realize today was the first day of the launch and that the product will evolve considerably, but some initial things I found missing:

  • Perhaps the biggest surprise was the lack of video, purely because that seems to be included in almost every other OTT communications app these days.
  • Not having a Windows client also seemed odd, given that they had a Mac OS X client. (Not that this mattered to me personally, but it just seemed odd.)
  • I also missed the ability to edit a message you've already posted.

So Now What?

I'm definitely intrigued by what I see... I'll keep using Wire and will install the Mac OS X client.

There's still the larger issue that this is yet-another-silo-of-communication that is separate from all the other mobile apps and services out there... but that's the topic for another post.

And there's the ever-present "directory" issue, i.e. how will Wire grow the directory of users so that you find the people there that you want to communicate with? But that, too, is a topic for another post. It's not clear, too, what the business model is.

I was also initially intrigued by the idea that Wire might work over IPv6 ... but while the www.wire.com website DOES work over IPv6 (yea!), further examination and network sniffing shows that the traffic going from the application goes to Amazon EC2 servers that are only on IPv4. I'm looking forward to learning more about what might or might not be true here.

All that aside, Wire looks so far like a very cool new entrant into the realm of mobile communications apps... and I'm looking forward to more experimentation and usage in the days and weeks ahead! If you are using Wire (or decide to try it out), please feel free to contact me in the Wire app as "Dan York" or via "[email protected]".

Congrats to Jonathan, Alan, Jaanus and the rest of the Wire team for their launch today!

More Articles To Read

What Do YOU Think?

Have you tried Wire out yet? What do you think? Will you use it?


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How To Test Firefox Hello, Mozilla's New WebRTC Video Call Service

Wow! Mozilla's new Firefox 34 includes a great new WebRTC-based feature called "Firefox Hello" that lets you call people without requiring them to have an account with Firefox. You simply send them a URL via email, chat or some other method - and they can start calling you from within Firefox.

Here's all you need to do to try it yourself. First, you need Firefox 34, of course. Once you have upgraded or installed the software, you should see a "Hello" button over on the far right side of the browser's top bar:

Firefox hello button

If you don't see this button, as I didn't, you may have to perform the following steps, as documented in a Firefox help page:

1. Open the "Customize" section of the browser to add the "Hello" button to your menu bar:

Firefox customize

2. Drag the "Hello" button to the browser bar or to the drop-down menu.

Now, in my case, that still didn't work and I had to use the additional trick mentioned in the help article of going to http://about:config and changing "loop.throttled" to "false" (simply by clicking on that setting). After restarting Firefox I was then able to go into the Customize window and add the Hello button to the browser.

Initiating A Call

Once the Hello button was visible I just had to click on it to get a URL that I could pass along to someone:

Firefox hello url

I posted it, somewhat ironically, into a Skype chat where a number of us who are "early adopters" of VoIP tech hang out... and Dick Schiferli (of Pamela fame) soon clicked the link. The call request window appeared in the lower part of my Firefox window:

Firefox hello request

The first time we tried Dick was signed in to a Firefox account but I was not. We got an error and the call couldn't connect:

Firefox hello call failure

Now, I don't know if this was a transient error caused by so many people trying it out... or if this was an issue with the "guest" access, but a few minutes later when I was also signed in Dick and I had no problem connecting:

Firefox hello call in browser

And there we were talking!

Cross-Platform Testing

In a good test of cross-platform interop, Dick was using Firefox on Microsoft Windows 8 and I was using Firefox on Mac OS X. The quality both in terms of voice and audio was great. We did notice one interesting difference between the platforms. On OS X I had an arrow that let me "pop out" the Hello window into a separate window that I could then resize and move around my screen:

Firefox hello pop out

There was no way for either of us to simply click a button and make the conversation go "full screen", but with this pop-out window I was able to resize it to take over most of my iMac's screen.

Missing Chat...

Interestingly, one of the things I found missing from our experience was any form of integrated chat. I wanted to share with Dick a link to a screenshot of what I was seeing on my computer and wound up sharing that link through a Skype chat.

I don't know that I need chat... but I found it curious that I would just expect chat to be available. Given that Skype and Google+ Hangouts both offer this, my expectation does make a bit of sense.

Further Testing...

Given that I just created my Firefox account today, I couldn't test the use of contacts as documented in the Mozilla blog post about the beta of Firefox Hello. I look forward to doing so. I also want to go back and try it again when I am not signed in to verify that guest access does indeed work.

All in all I was quite impressed with the ease and quality of this first public release of Firefox Hello!

More info about Firefox Hello and Firefox 34 in general:


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Today At Noon EST: Matrix.Org Distributed Communications On The VUC Call

Matrix 300What is the Matrix.org distributed communication system all about? What is an "open source federated signaling standard"? In about 30 minutes you'll be able to find out LIVE on today's VoIP Users Conference (VUC) where the guest will be Matthew Hodgson, one of the co-founders of Matrix.org. As the site says:

Matrix is a new open standard for interoperable Instant Messaging and VoIP, providing pragmatic HTTP APIs and open source reference implementations for creating and running your own real-time communication infrastructure.

Our hope is to make VoIP/IM as universal and interoperable as email.

You can watch it live on YouTube at:

Or join in on the Google+ event page. As noted in the #VUC show notes, the team is going to try a number of different ways to get people connected today.

It's probably best to also join the IRC backchannel where links are shared, questions are answered and other comments occur. You also can visit the Google+ event page for the VUC #517 session today where there may be additional links and info.

If you won't be at your computer, you can also call in via:

  • sip:[email protected]
  • +1 (646) 475-2098
  • Skype:vuc.me

The session will of course be recorded so you can listen/watch later.

Given that I've long focused on the need for "distributed and decentralized" communication systems, I'm intrigued to learn more about what the Matrix.org team is intending to do. More links for background information can be found at:

I'm not going to be able to join live today due to the holiday here in the USA and some plans with our family... but I'm definitely looking forward to listening to/watching the archive of today's show and giving it a test myself!


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