Jim Courtney Discussing His "Experience Skype To The Max" Book on March 27 on VUC at Noon US EDT

Vuc534 skype to the maxWant to learn more about what's up with Skype right now? Tomorrow, March 27, 2015, at 12 noon US Eastern, my friend Jim Courtney is going to be discussing the new second edition of his "Experience Skype to the Max" on episode 534 of the VoIP Users Conference (VUC) podcast.

As noted on the VUC page, Jim will be talking about:

  • New features over the past three years and why they don’t have the “buzz” impact that new features used to have. Are we becoming calloused to anything new?
  • The challenge of innovating with a product that has built up a legacy and familiarity
  • The challenge of educating users about features beyond free voice and video calling (and it’s also a challenge for smartphones – to make users realize there is value in all those applications available beyond voice calls and SMS messages).
  • The feature set to consider when evaluating other alternatives
  • The directory issue
  • Skype vs Skype for Business
  • Asynchronous vs real time comms (migrating to IM backend has allowed more “persistence” with chat messaging, for instance)
  • Anytime communications Rooms

It should be a good session. I've known Jim for many years through his blogging about VoIP and he has a great amount of knowledge about Skype. Sadly, I'll be occupied with IETF 92 activities during the live broadcast so I will have to catch up with the recording of the session.

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 #534 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. Here is the YouTube live video stream:


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Join Live Today at 9:00 CDT - Internet Video Codec BOF at IETF92

Ietf square 1Can we create a royalty-free (RF) video codec that can be deployed ubiquitously and become the new open standard for video communication across the Internet?

THAT is the fundamental question of the Internet Video Codec (NETVC) Birds-of-a-Feather (BoF) happening at IETF 92 in Dallas today, March 24, 2015, from 9:00-11:30 CDT (UTC-5). You can listen and participate live using the following links:

You also may want to view the presentation that will be used during the session.

The goal of the overall effort is defined as this:

  • Development of a video codec that is:

    • Optimized for real-time communications over the public Internet
    • Competitive with or superior to existing modern codecs 

    • Viewed as having IPR licensing terms that allow for wide implementation and deployment 

    • Developed under the IPR rules in BCP 78 (RFC 5378) and BCP 79 (RFCs 3979 and 4879)
  • Replicate the success of the CODEC WG in producing the Opus audio codec.

The BOF proposal contains more of a narrative:

The Internet needs a royalty-free (RF) video codec that can become the backbone for universal deployment of video related technologies. Royalty-bearing codecs put constraints on implementors that are unacceptable, but current RF codecs are not yet competitive with royalty-bearing offerings. This dilemma stalls innovation in the space and means large sets of consumers don't have access to the best video technology.

There are efforts underway by several groups to produce a next-generation, royalty-free (RF) video codec, including VP10 by Google and Daala by Mozilla/Xiph.Org. While far from complete, these efforts aim to surpass the royalty-bearing competition. Efforts within other standards organizations like MPEG to create RF video standards have been unsuccessful so far, but have showed that many consumer device manufacturers would support an RF codec.

The success of Opus from the CODEC WG has also shown that collaboration, based on the IETF's principals of open participation, can produce better results than competition between patented technologies. The IPR rules in BCP 78 and 79 are also critical for success. They impose a duty to disclose, and require exact patent or patent application numbers, in addition to basic licensing terms. This allows participants to evaluate the risk of infringement and, if appropriate, design work arounds, in any technology adopted, and assess the cost of adopting such technology. Because it does not force participants to agree to license their patents under RF terms, it helps to encourage participation even by those opposed to such terms (instead of guaranteeing they stay away). In addition to an environment which encourages third-party disclosures, this provides much better chances of success than SDOs which have a "patent-blind" process or which require blanket RF grants.

And the NETVC BOF agenda outlines the plan for the session today.

I do believe that creating this kind of royalty-free codec for Internet video is a critical step to enabling video to be used everywhere across the Internet... not just where people are able to pay to license royalty-bearing codecs. I'd like to see even more developer creativity and innovation unleashed with this action.

I'll be listening and participating remotely. I hope that many of you will join in as well. 9:00am US CDT today (10:00am for me on the US East Coast).

P.S. If you have no idea what the IETF is all about, you may want to skim The Tao of IETF first...


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Goodbye, Gigaom - So Long And Thanks For All The News!

GigaomThis one hurts. There have been many failures in the tech media industry, but the death of Gigaom is one that hurts. The word started filtering out early last week from people such as Mathew Ingram:

And then there were the confirmations from people such as Om himself:

And the starkly worded message on the main page of Gigaom that said in part:

Gigaom recently became unable to pay its creditors in full at this time. As a result, the company is working with its creditors that have rights to all of the company’s assets as their collateral. All operations have ceased.

"All operations have ceased."

And there it was... the end of this particular dream of Om's. He followed with his own post, ending simply "Goodnight sweetheart, I still love you!"

MUCH has been written in the past two days. Some of the posts:

I struggled about whether to write anything... but I felt I needed to.

The "VoIP Bloggers"

I say that "this one hurts" because I watched Om grow Gigaom from the beginning. Back in the early 2000's when "blogging" was still new, there was this whole cadre of us who wrote about "voice of IP" or "VoIP" and how the Internet was fundamentally changing telecommunications.

There was Andy Abramson with VoIPWatch, Jeff Pulver with his various VON sites, Martin Geddes with Telepocalpse, me here with Disruptive Telephony, Tom Keating with his "VoIP and Gadgets Blog" at TMC, Aswath Rao, Alec Saunders, Stuart Henshall and so many more...

But perhaps the most prolific of all of us was Om with his site simply titled "Om Malik on Broadband." He brought his incisive reporting and his way of helping put news in context of the larger picture.

In those glory days of blogging we read each other's posts... commented on them... excerpted them... trackbacked... pingbacked... learned from each other... and so much more...

But Om had grander ideas...

Gigaom

I was impressed to watch the growth as "Gigaom" was born and soon became about so much more than just one person. Om added more writers... more topic areas... just more content in general.

It was impressive!

And in a sea of so many tech media sites I always enjoyed reading Gigaom. It was one of the "go to" sites I visited when I wanted to learn more about a topic.

In particular I enjoyed the work of Mathew Ingram who gave such great coverage to the way that the Internet is changing the ways in which we communicate - a topic I find so fascinating and write about both here and over on Disruptive Communications. I enjoyed his writing... as I did Stacy Higginbotham and so many of the other writers.

I watched the expansion into events and in particular into research. I was extremely intrigued by the "Gigaom Research" idea of paying a basic fee for the year and getting access to all sorts of research.

And Then

And then... suddenly... it ended.

"All operations have ceased."

In the days that have followed, there have been some reflections emerging with more details. A few I found more interesting and useful:

All really point to some of the financing, and particularly the debt, as the challenge the business faced and in the end couldn't solve.

I do, though, like what Mathew Ingram said in his "exit interview" with the Columbia Journalism Review:

"There’s a sort of barbell effect: If you are super small and super focused and super niche you can succeed, arguably. And if you’re super huge and mass and gigantic and growing quickly, you can succeed. But in the middle, is death. The valley of death. So arguably we got caught in that valley of death."

The whole piece is worth a read!

Goodbye, Gigaom...

And now it's gone. Nothing left but to wind down the final operations.

I have to think that most of the writers will land on their feet. They were excellent and have to be receiving job offers ... other media companies would be crazy not to try to snatch them up!

I will miss the site. What I enjoyed most was that Gigaom did NOT try to go after views with click-bait headlines or other gimmicks. They tried to just give us solid news with context.

Thank you, Om, for creating the site - and for aspiring to lead journalism in new and different directions. Thank you Om, Mathew, Stacy and all the others for all the news your wrote.

Thank you.


An audio commentary on this topic is available:


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Net Neutrality: Did We "Win" A Battle, Only To Possibly Lose The War?

FCC logo

Friends don't understand why I'm not jumping for joy after the FCC's "Network Neutrality" decision yesterday.  After all, they've been hearing me passionately argue for years about how we need to wake up and pay attention to the choices we have to make for the future of the Internet.  They've heard me rail against the Internet access providers here in the US who seek to be the new gatekeepers and require people to ask permission or pay to get new services online.  They've heard me strongly say that "The Internet Way" is for services to be "decentralized and distributed".  They've seen me write about "permissionless innovation" and the dangers we could face.  In fact, I'll be in Austin, TX, next week speaking at the NTEN conference about "Our Choice of Internet Futures"

They know that I joined the Internet Society in 2011 specifically to fight for the open Internet - and that a large goal in my life is to be one of the voices helping advocate for the open Internet and ensuring that my children have the same "Internet of opportunity" that I've been able to have.  Friends could hear in the closing words of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler many of the same phrases and words that I have been so passionately advocating about over many years.  
 
Why, then, am I not dancing in the streets?
 
Two reasons.
 
1. What Is In The FCC Order? - Seemingly lost in all the media euphoria yesterday was a basic fact:
WE DON'T KNOW WHAT THE FCC ACTUALLY VOTED ON!
No one outside the FCC Commissioners and their staffs have seen the actual "Order" that the FCC voted on yesterday.  Sure, we've heard all the lofty rhetoric and seen the summaries... but the rumors are that the actual document is over 300 pages and full of details.
 
Perhaps I’m just cynical, but the telecommunications industry in the United States employs hundreds of lawyers in Washington, DC, to influence and shape legislation and regulations in ways that benefit the telecom industry - and they've been doing so for over 100 years.  And so while some of the companies may line up to file lawsuits against this FCC Order, odds are very good that their lobbyists and specialists have been hard at work attempting to shape these new regulations. I know some people at the FCC who are strong open Internet advocates and who I'm sure are trying to do the right thing... but I also know that 300+ pages has a whole lot of room for things to slip in.
 
My greatest fear is that when we actually see the full text, we may find that while there are some provisions we like, there are many others we don't - and there may be loopholes big enough to drive an entire residential network through.  

    
"The other problem with rules is that they are brittle. Teams of lawyers will comb through whatever the FCC finally publishes and find any loopholes. There will be defined bright lines going forward and, make no mistake, ISPs will now get as close to those lines as they can. Whatever the Internet's rough consensus of "acceptable" was before, it's about to be thrown out in favor of a set of rules written by lawyers. Ironically, that may end up resulting in a regulated network that is less neutral than what we have today."
 
2. The Internet Is Not (or WAS Not) The Telephone Network - For so many years (in fact, decades for some people), we who are advocates of the open Internet have said at every chance we could one simple fact:
The Internet is NOT the telephone network.  The Internet is NOT the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network).
 
And therefore the Internet should NOT be regulated like the traditional telecom network.  The Internet should not fall under traditional telecom legislation and regulation.  The Internet should not be regulated by the traditional telecom authorities and telecom regulators.  
 
You cannot apply the old rules of telecom to the new world of the Internet.
 
The Internet is something new.  The Internet is NOT telecom.   Again and again and again and again we've all said this.  Going back many, many years.
 
If you remember back to 2012 and the whole World Conference on International Telecommunication (WCIT) where so many were concerned that the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) was going to try to assert authority over the Internet, millions of us around the world rallied together to encourage our advocates in governments and organizations to say at WCIT that: 

The Internet is NOT telecom.  You cannot apply the old rules of telecom to the new world of the Internet.
 
And the outcome of WCIT was that the Internet was left alone and was recognized as being outside the scope of a treaty focused on telecommunications/telephony.
 
We all within the Internet have been saying this consisistently again and again:
The Internet is NOT telecom.  Those are old rules - we are living in a new medium.
 
But guess what?  
 
Yesterday's ruling by the FCC says (as best we understand it) - the Internet does fall under telecommunication regulations.  Internet service providers should be classified under Title II just like all the other telecommunications service providers.
 
The FCC has effectively said: 
The Internet IS telecom.  The old rules DO apply.
I am not sure that is something to celebrate.
 
Many countries around the world have followed the lead of the US in treating the Internet lightly - but now that the FCC is effectively declaring the Internet to be like the telephone network, what is to stop those countries from doing the same?  Indeed what is to prevent the ITU from now using this action to justify a larger role for it in regulating the Internet?  After all, it's just telecom now.
 
I would have personally been far happier if the U.S. Congress had come up with new legislation that enshrined the principles of the open Internet in a new form  of legislation that didn't carry with it all the legacy baggage of 100 years of telecom regulation. Yes, the legions of lawyers might have made it a hard fight, but it would have at least been something new - and at least we would have known more of what was actually being voted on. But that didn't happen - and so here we are today.
 
The "devil is in the details", as they say... and now we have to wait to see what exactly the FCC actually did yesterday.  I'd like to be wrong and just be cynical and jaded.  I fear that I am right.
 
I applaud FCC Chairman Wheeler for the lofty language he and the other commissioners used yesterday.  It is a huge victory to have the heads of the FCC saying publicly so many of the things that so many of us have been advocating about for so many years.  It is also a huge victory to have so many millions of people, not just in the US but all around the world, rise up and pay attention to these issues as a result of this whole issue here in the U.S. That is HUGE.  We've needed something like this to wake people up to the choices we have to make.
 
But I do worry that in "winning" this victory yesterday, we may in fact be setting ourselves up to lose the larger war to keep the Internet open.


Google Finally Kills Off GoogleTalk and XMPP (Jabber) Integration

GoogleTalk is dead, Jim!

By way of a comment to a post I wrote back in May 2013 about Google seeming to kill off XMPP/Jabber support in Google+ Hangouts (spoiler: They did!), I learned from a friend that the GoogleTalk API was officially deprecated as of February 23, 2015. I confirmed this by finding a Google+ post from Google's Mayur Kamat.

Now, this is not a surprise. Google has been clear that Hangouts was the replacement and also that Hangouts does not support XMPP:

Googletalk end

Still, I'm sad to see the XMPP integration die off. It is just a continuation of the descent of messaging services into walled gardens ... a topic I've been writing about for many years.

UPDATE: Please see the post "No, it’s not the end of XMPP for Google Talk" on the XMPP Standards Foundation site. The XSF notes that XMPP is still used inside of Google and that XMPP federation can still occur with a third-part XMPP client. However, because Google does not support the secure use of XMPP via TLS, many public XMPP servers will not connect to its server. I join the XSF in wishing that Google would embrace secure messaging and better federation. However, given that their product direction is for Hangouts, which does NOT support XMPP, I'm skeptical that we'll ever see any better federation at this point.

On that note, it was really no surprise to see the media reports about Microsoft killing off Google and Facebook chat support in its Outlook.com service. Microsoft made this Google integration available back in May 2013, but today Microsoft really has no choice:

  • Google has killed off XMPP integration with Hangouts.
  • Facebook has killed off XMPP integration with their new v2.0 API.

And so Microsoft can only offer Outlook.com its own proprietary walled garden... Skype!

Goodbye GoogleTalk and... sadly... goodbye XMPP integration!


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Wire 1.4 on iOS Tweaks The Display And Adds Avatars To Chats

Today the team at Wire rolled out a new version 1.4 of their iOS app. As they say in the release notes visible in the AppStore, the changes are:
  • Added avatars and blurred background in conversations for improved readability.
  • Added colored background images in the conversation list
  • Improved tutorial hints
  • 1Password support
  • Bug fixes and improvements

More to the point, the Wire team outlined the thinking behind these changes in a blog post on February 2, 2015. At the time they indicated the changes were available right then on Android and it apparently took this long for Apple to approve the new version for iOS (depending upon when Wire did in fact submit the new version to Apple).

I'm admittedly in a bit of a mixed mind with regard to the evolution of the chat interface. Here is what a Wire chat looked like on my iPhone 5s before (left) and after (right) the upgrade to Wire 1.4 (click/tap the image for a larger view):

Wire 1 4 avatars

On the plus side, I do find the avatars helpful as visual identifiers that help you easily see who is writing what in the chat window. Particularly if people use the same avatar image as they do on other networks and messaging systems, it becomes easy to rapidly identify who is writing.

On the negative side, I did like that the previous version used the full width of the screen and also had a slightly larger font size.

I've just started using the new version so don't yet have much experience with the other new features. The change in the display was quite noticable, though.

What do you think? If you're using Wire, do you like the new changes?


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Video: VUC 528 Provides An Update On Matrix.org And Wire

Vuc logoLast Friday's VUC conference call / podcast / hangout provided some interesting updates about the ongoing work at Matrix.org to build services for scalable, distributed and federated collaboration systems as well as some discussion of Wire, the app I've written about here. Guests included Matthew Hodgson and Amandine Le Pape from Matrix.org, as well as the usual cast of characters and a couple of live demonstrations, too.

You can view the episode web page and listen to the show here:

I joined the show about mid-way through and naturally wound up talking about IPv6, the Internet of Things (IoT), ICANN, DNS and other topics.

FYI, some good info about Matrix.org can be found in their FAQ. Back in November 2014, there was also another VUC episode focused around Matrix.org.

It was an enjoyable show and I'd encourage you to give it a listen.


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Congratulations To Alec Saunders On His Move To Microsoft

Alec saundersCongratulations to Alec Saunders on his new role working with Microsoft Ventures in Canada! Alec's been a long-time friend and fellow blogger dating way back to the mid-2000's when he was proposing his "Voice 2.0 Manifesto". When he was leading Iotum a group of us were doing the daily "Squawk Box" podcast that was a lot of fun. Alec and I used to see each other all the time on the VoIP / Unified Communications conference circuit (which is where I took the photo that he now uses on his blog). Back in September 2011 I wrote about his joining Blackberry and then a year later when he made rock music videos with Blackberry.

And now he's returning to his roots! He was one of the first product managers for Internet Explorer at Microsoft... and now he's back at Microsoft again! As he says in his post:

As of last Monday, I’ve rejoined Microsoft in the role of Principal Technical Evangelist. My beat is Canada – not just Kitchener-Waterloo. My boss is Microsoft Chief Evangelist and Corporate Vice President for Developer Experience, Steven “Guggs” Guggenheimer. I’m part of the global Microsoft Ventures team. And we run programs, like the Microsoft Ventures Accelerators, that are focused on helping early stage companies achieve their full potential.

I've long been skeptical about Microsoft and frustrated with many of their products and services. In particularly I haven't been pleased at all with the lackluster evolution of Skype (or really lack thereof) under Microsoft's watch... but the list of other products that have frustrated me can go on.

BUT... I'll admit that they've been doing some interesting things lately - and their new leadership seems like they have a clue. It's probably a great time for dynamic people like Alec to re-join Microsoft. The role sounds perfect for him... using so many of his different strengths!

I'm looking forward to seeing what he does in that role ... and if my travels bring me back up to Canada I'll look forward to catching up with him somewhere in all the madness.

Congrats, Alec!


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Seeing IP Phones In Hotels, Banks, Offices...

"Hey, that's a Mitel IP phone... I remember when that handset was introduced. It was very different from the previous one but had better 'shoulderability' ... it created a bit of a stir among customers, though. Hmmm... I wonder what model IP phone that is......"

All of this was running through my head during a routine visit to my bank this morning while waiting at a counter talking to someone. He had to call another office so there I was looking at his desk phone.

It happens to me all the time!

Even though I left Mitel way back in 2007... and really left IP telephony when I left Voxeo in 2011... IP telephony hasn't left me!

I'll be at a hotel... and I am checking out their phone system. A bank... an office... Wherever! There's a Cisco IP phone... there's an Avaya... there's a Mitel... a snow... a I-have-no-clue...

I guess it's just an occupational hazard of having been a product manager for IP phones during my time at Mitel... or maybe just the 6 years I spent there learning about IP telephony... but I just always see the IP phones. :-)

Seeing IP Phones In Hotels, Banks, Offices...


Aswath Rao Says I'm Wrong About VoIP In India

Whatsapp logoAs a follow-up to my post yesterday about how Indian telcos are complaining to the the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) about WhatsApp's plans to launch VoIP, long-time VoIP blogger Aswath Rao took issue on Twitter with one particular sentence in my article:
India has NOT been a very friendly place for VoIP historically, and so we'll have to see what happens here...

In a series of tweets Aswath pointed out that the TRAI has in fact been very supportive of IP-to-IP VoIP services and has left them unregulated. The regulation has all been around VoIP services interconnecting to the Indian PSTN. Aswath's tweets: https://twitter.com/aswath/status/548681349344034818

You are mistaken when you say "India has NOT been a very friendly place for VoIP historically". And I have pted it out many times.
https://twitter.com/aswath/status/548681697227980800
From the get go, TRAI has regulated only IP to Indian PSTN. IP/IP & IP to foreign PSTN have been unregulated
https://twitter.com/aswath/status/548687939862290432
My point is that TRAI has been very enlightened in its ruling. Even after 11/26 attack & pressure it has not reg IP/IP

Given that Aswath has been very involved in VoIP in India for many years, I'll defer to his opinion on this one.

Thanks, Aswath, for challenging me on this sentence.


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