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Posts from July 2014

The Mobile Messaging Wars Continue - Facebook Forces Separate Messenger App On Mobile Users

In the ongoing war for mobile messaging dominance and "what will replace SMS", Facebook has decided to annoy a serious part of their user base and force all mobile users to move to Facebook's separate Messenger app. In a short period of time, you will be forced to install the Messenger app if you want to send messages to Facebook friends while using your iOS or Android mobile phone.

Here's the thing... I already tried Messenger on my iPhone a while ago... AND I *UNINSTALLED* IT!

I don't want a separate messaging app. I already have a ton of those. When I am in Facebook I want to do all my Facebook activities and messaging within the one app. I tried Messenger and found the switching between the apps to be painful enough that I wanted nothing to do with it.

Now... in fairness, being someone who tends toward the "early adopter" stage, it was a while ago that I tried Messenger and before their "big update", so presumably they've made improvements. As Facebook so helpfully tells me, 190 of my friends use Messenger already. Knowing some of the people whose images I see on that ad Facebook show me, I can't imagine them tolerating a poor user experience... so yes, perhaps I should try it again.

But it's annoying to be forced to do so. Basically what it says to me is "we (FB) have tried every incentive possible to get people to move, but they aren't, so now we're going to make them move." Facebook already forced most of their European users to make the switch - but now they are making everyone switch.

There has been a great amount of media attention to this move today, and I received the email directly this morning:

Facebook messenger

The text itself says:

We wanted to let you know that messages are moving out of the Facebook app to our Messenger app, a free app that's faster and more reliable for everyday messaging. Messenger also includes: new ways to send photos and videos, voice calls, stickers, group conversations and more.

Soon, we'll start guiding you to get started with Messenger. After a few days, you'll also see a reminder notice in the Facebook app, where you'd normally see your messages. At that point, we'll ask you to install Messenger or go to the Facebook website to view and send messages. You'll still see new message notifications in the Facebook app, and it'll be easy to switch between Facebook and Messenger.

We appreciate your taking the time to install Messenger and know it will take a little while to adjust to using a second app. We look forward to sharing this fast, fun and reliable way of messaging with you. You can learn more here.

Where the "Soon, we'll start guiding you..." is really just marketing-speak for "Soon, you'll have no choice if you want to continue using Facebook messaging on your mobile phone."

The Bigger Picture

I understand why Facebook is doing this. They want a separate, lean "messaging" app that integrates tightly with your mobile phone operating system (iOS or Android). They want it so integrated that eventually you use it only and stop using the messaging app that is part of your o/s.

On my iPhone Apple has done a brilliant job with the "Messages" app integrating Apple's iMessage service in with regular SMS text messages. By default Apple tries to send your message via their OTT messaging service (iMessage) and then falls back to SMS when the recipient isn't registered with iMessage.

Facebook wants you to use their Messenger app as your default messenging app. They would like me to replace Apple's "Messages" with their "Messenger" app as my place to go do send a message. So they need a lean and focused messenging app to do this.

The OTT War For Mobile Messaging Dominance

And this IS the end-game. The war now is for which of the many "Over-The Top" (OTT) apps will be the replacement for the dying world of SMS messaging. People aren't sending as many actual SMS messages and are instead using:

  • iMessage from Apple
  • Facebook Messaging
  • WhatsApp (also now from Facebook)
  • Line from NHN
  • WeChat from Tencent
  • Hangouts from Google (as part of Google+ or separate)
  • Skype from Microsoft
  • Viber
  • Twitter
  • Blackberry Messenger (BBM - see update note below)

and probably another hundred smaller ones.

[UPDATE: A Canadian friend noted that I missed Blackberry Messenger (BBM) in the list and while I admittedly don't think about BBM that much these days, he's right that there is still a population that uses it on their smartphones.]

And yes, these are all separate "walled gardens" of propriety messaging (as I wrote about back in 2007, although the names have changed substantially). You can't message someone on a different system. You both have to be part of the same system - or potentially the system may fall back to sending a SMS message as iMessage does.

The attempts to lock Internet users into closed, proprietary walled gardens continues.

Make your app easy and simple to use... and get the most people using your app so that they won't want to switch to some other app.

The Broader OTT War For Mobile Communications

Notice, too, that Facebook mentions using Messenger for "voice calls". With this on iOS they are clearly aiming to take on Apple's "Facetime Audio" that Apple now presents as an option each time you make a call. And they can take on Microsoft's Skype and Google's Hangouts.

Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

All trying to be THE app/service that you use for communication on your mobile device. (And you can probably expect folks like Amazon to enter the game at some point, too.)

Giants on the playground.

And who is missing are the past giants of telecom. The "telcos"... the "carriers"... the "service providers". They are well on their way to being commoditized down to "big, fat, dumb pipes" of data... and they don't like that.

Hence you see them trying to coming out with their own apps and services (as Telefonica has done) or trying to come out with a rival offering such as Joyn (which Dean Bubley rips apart while pointing out the fallacy of talking of the "messaging market")... or using their control of the underlying data network to slow or block services... or using their powerful lobbying capabilities to attempt to get governments to regulate or intervene.

THIS is why so many of the upcoming ITU events matter. THIS is why the discussions on "network neutrality" matter.

The war for the future of mobile communications is well underway... and Facebook's move this week is just part of that much larger battle.

Even if that move will severely annoy Facebook users like me... most of whom will, of course, suck it up and install Messenger... because whether we like it or not we do want to communicate with Facebook users while mobile.

You can also listen to audio commentary on this topic:

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What is "5G" Wireless Technology? Watch LIVE in 2 hours to learn more...

5gWhat is "fifth-generation" (5G) wireless technology? In about 2 hours at 12noon EDT (16:00 UTC) today, July 24, 2014, there will be a live video stream of a presentation happening at IETF 90 in Toronto, Canada. You can watch the live video on the IETF Google+ Page and also embedded in this blog post below (but check the Google+ page for any updates). The session description is:

Discussions on fifth generation (5g) wireless access has rapidly intensified during the latest two years. 5G wireless access is seen as the long-term enabler of the overall networked society, not only providing enhanced mobile broadband access but being a tool to provide wireless connectivity for any kind of application.

This speech will provide an overview of the state of 5G efforts around the world. We will discuss the specific requirements and challenges being identified for 5G wireless access and the different technology components and alternatives being considered. We will also outline possible time schedule for 5G in ITU and 3GPP.

Given that so many people are getting their Internet access through mobile networks (and increasingly will be doing so in the future), I think it's extremely important to understand where these mobile technologies are going.

The speaker is Erik Dahlman from Ericsson and more information about his background can be found on the lunch session description page on the IETF website.

The presentation will be recorded and will be able to be viewed in the viewer below after the session is over. (And again, check the IETF Google+ event page for more information about the session and any updates.

UPDATE: Unfortunately Google's YouTube Live service when down for maintenance at the time we wanted to start our session:

Ytl maintenance

Instead you need to watch the session on at:

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Live In 2 Hours - Today's VUC Call About The Future of Video With Bernard Aboba and Emil Ivov

VucIn just about 2 hours at 12 noon US Eastern time the VoIP Users Conference (VUC) should have an extremely interesting session about "The Future of Video" featuring Bernard Aboba and Emil Ivov. Bernard works for Microsoft on their Lync products and has also been extremely involved in the IETF, the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) and other efforts. Emil is the had of the Jitsi project and has been doing amazing things with video conferencing.

You can watch today's call on the Google+ Page or directly on YouTube:

It's probably best to also join the IRC backchannel where links are shared, questions are answered and other comments occur.

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

  • +1 (646) 475-2098

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

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Skype Shuts Down SkypeKit and the Skype Developer Website

Goodbye to SkypeKit... and perhaps more importantly to the website. Prominently featured there now is a banner saying the site will close on July 31, 2014:

Skype Developer 3

Leaving aside the bizarre way to end the warning banner ("... to integrate with" and then nothing more), I went to the site because I received an email from Skype in the form of a "SkypeKit License Termination Notice". The email says in full:

Dear Dan ,

In July 2013, we notified you of our intention to end support for our SkypeKit SDK at the end of July 2014. With this date now approaching, this email serves as 30 days’ official notice of termination of the SkypeKit Licence Agreement (“Agreement”) pursuant to Section 13.2.4 of the Agreement. The Agreement will end on July 31st 2014. Upon termination of the Agreement you must promptly destroy all copies of the SkypeKit SDK in your possession or control, except that if you have already entered into the SkypeKit Distribution Terms and have received a commercialization keypair for your SkypeKit Product(s) then you may continue to distribute these SkypeKit Products(s).

Skype will not be issuing any new keypairs and we remind you that keypairs may only be used in connection with the SkypeKit Product for which they were issued. In addition, for hardware, keypairs may only be used for the specific version of the SkypeKit Product that was certified through our hardware certification program. Our hardware certification program for SkypeKit Products has now closed and no new hardware (including new models or versions of previously certified hardware) can be distributed.

Key investments in Skype’s application and service architecture may cause the Skype features to stop working without notice in SkypeKit products. As a result, we encourage you to end any further distribution of SkypeKit products.

We would also like to draw to your attention to the obligations that survive termination of the Agreement as described in Section 16.3 of the SkypeKit Licence Agreement.

The Skype Developer website will also close on July 31st, 2014. If you have any queries please contact Skype Developer Support.

Kind regards
Skype Developer Team

Looking back, I don't see the email from July 2013, but in truth I probably deleted it or it wound up in a spam folder. Sadly, I long ago lost much of my interest in Skype's latest developer follies.

If we jump back in time a bit, Skype first released a "preview" of their "SkypeKit" Software Development Kit (SDK) back in early 2011. Jim Courtney had a great writeup of their release of the public beta at eComm 2011. Like many others, I signed up and paid my $10 to see what was under the hood. I didn't do much with it but I remember looking at the python SDK a bit. Later in October 2011 I wrote about Skype's renaming of their public APIs and provided some clarification about what SkypeKit was all about.

And then I pretty much wrote nothing else about it... and much of the program gradually started fading away. In all my many posts about Skype, the only subsequent mention I find of SkypeKit was in a September 2010 post about Grandstream adding in Skype video to their IP phones.

In fairness, this was all happening before and then during the Microsoft acquisition of Skype in 2011 and so it was not surprising to see APIs created before Microsoft's acquisition being phased out.

What continues to surprise me is that there has never been any real replacement. Skype's 5th, 6th or 7th attempt (I lost track) at a developer program finally... just... died...

The folks at Skype wrote last November about the demise of the Desktop API and the need to support mobile devices. With that API's demise they also killed off their App Directory, which was their latest incarnation of a way to help developers get their apps out to Skype users.

Now Skype's entire "developer support" seems to be a category of pages on their support site, most of which seem to have answers about how the Skype Developer Program is no longer accepting registrations... or about why certain systems no longer work.

I get it... applications evolve. And Skype certainly has evolved away from its roots. It's just too bad, because once upon a time there seemed to be such promise for Skype as a communication platform that could be used widely by other companies and applications.

R.I.P. SkypeKit.

R.I.P. Skype Developer Program.

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