Today Alec Saunders posted a truly brilliant piece: Voice 3.0: The Emergence of the Voice Web
. It's a much-needed update to his 2005 "Voice 2.0 Manifesto
" and very nicely brings together much of the thinking about telecom today. (And yes, I had a chance to review it and provided feedback before it went live.)
It's brilliant. It's long. You really need to go and read it. It includes many of the themes we'll be talking about next week at eComm. It's right about so many things.
IT'S ALSO VERY WRONG.
The document as written has two big, glaring omissions.
Voice Doesn't Matter... As Much
First off... the piece is all about voice. Which is great. But here's a reality check:
People do NOT want to communicate by ONLY voice.
I spend my day communicating with people all over the world... in pretty much constant "real-time" communication. But almost NONE of it is by voice.
Instead it is by IM... by Twitter... by Facebook... by SMS... even by email. All text-based mediums.
Now occasionally I do actually speak with someone - and usually get startled when my phone or Skype actually rings. But the majority of my communication happens outside of voice.
I wrote about this evolution of communication four years ago ... and it has only continued to evolve to a situation where voice is only one of the available communication channels... and not even the primary communication channel.
I'd argue this trend is only going to continue. Voxeo commissioned some research by Opus Research a year ago where they surveyed consumer preference. The demographic shift is pretty clear in charts like this one:
Look at the purple bar for consumers aged 45-54 ... then look at the blue bar for consumers aged 18-24.
See the "wave"?
We live in a world of ubiquitous mobility ... a world where we use mobile devices accessing cloud-based services and interacting with social networks and other similar services.
Sometimes by voice.
So to Alec's three "Defining Themes", I would add a fourth theme of Voice 3.0, which is the rise of multi-channel communication and the evolution of voice to "just another channel".
In the new world of communication, it is about:
Enabling customers to connect with you in the channel of their choice.
All that Alec wrote about the other themes of Voice 3.0 will be true ... but merged into a broader context in which voice is simply one of the available communication channels. Alec writes:
The service package will include not just voice, but detailed statistics, group management controls, and more. And it will bristle with API’s that will enable an ecosystem of other players to be built around it.
I would argue that it is better stated:
The service package will include not just voice, but the ability to communicate across a wide variety of channels, supported by detailed statistics, group management controls, and more. And it will bristle with API’s that will enable an ecosystem of other players to be built around it.
Don't get me wrong... I'm not arguing that voice telephony will go away. It will be here with us probably forever. And there are certainly times when we need and want to use voice. But not always - and maybe not primarily.
"Voice 3.0" needs to recognize this evolution.
Voice 3.0 Must Be Open
The second omission I see is perhaps more of a philosophical and personal one. I firmly believe that for voice to continue to be relevant and in fact to potentially grow in usage, Voice 3.0 must be based on open standards and not locking people in to specific services or providers.
Alec nails it with regard to the success of the Web (my emphasis added):
The web went from being a hyperlinked text library, to the largest programmable application on the planet, fuelled by open standards, lightweight communications infrastructure, standards which allowed content to be separated from logic and presentation, and an explosion of end-user devices, including today’s mobile devices.
He goes on to say:
Voice is on the cusp of the same revolution – a revolution that will be defined by letting the customer define the business logic of the application, not the service provider.
But then he doesn't quite bring it home. He says later again a similar thread (my emphasis added):
Ultimately, we’ll build systems where communications result in artefacts that can be consumed by services that have not been pre-specified. Think, for example, of the role that RSS played in the syndication of content, and imagine a similar world for voice. Tool chains will be created that will allow people to participate in building these services, and an explosion of new applications to consume these voice artefacts will be built.
The key here is that RSS is an open standard..
Alec in fact concludes with this (again, my emphasis added):
Network effects in the Voice 3.0 world become even more important. Will an open standard emerge? Although many die-hard networking folks would prefer that scenario, it’s hard to say. We may find ourselves in a world where a dominant proprietary player like Skype controls the platform, as a result of winning the race to build thriving developer ecosystems, and the applications that customers use and want.
Perhaps I am just part of the "die-hard networking folks", but I do believe that for voice to truly be integrated with the rest of the Web... for the "Voice Web" to emerge that Alec writes of in his title... for all the amazing new opportunities to emerge and "explode onto the scene"... for all of that to occur, Voice 3.0 needs to be based on open standards.
In fact, I would re-write his "web" paragraph with a voice spin:
Voice went from being an obscure medium locked up in proprietary/legacy telco control, to the largest programmable application on the planet, fueled by open standards, lightweight communications infrastructure, standards which allowed content to be separated from logic and presentation, and an explosion of end-user devices, including today’s mobile devices.
That is Voice 3.0.
And that is the fifth defining theme, being based on open standards that move control to the users and developers instead of the providers.
Again, you NEED to read Alec's full Voice 3.0 piece. It's an outstanding piece that is very well done.
Despite what I've written here, I do believe Alec's piece gets it right... subject to my modifications. :-)
And then please add your view on this. Do you agree with me about these additions? Do you think I'm wrong? Please leave comments here - or write your own piece and leave a link here in the comments. Comment on Alec's piece... comment on Twitter or Facebook... talk to us at eComm next week...
Where do you see "Voice 3.0" going?
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