Skype Journal Test

Friday, August 29, 2008

Three big milestones in Skype's fifth year

Skype's fifth birthday is 29 August. As we count down, two huge milestones changed Skype's future in the last twelve months.

The bad one happened last month.

29 July 2008

BT buys Ribbit
natural monopoly
talk for all onlives

1. BT purchased Ribbit.

Ribbit is the platform play Skype might have been. They are ready to start scaling. And now they have the money, customer base, telecom core, and international operations to reach their potential.

Ribbit seeks to become a natural monopoly for the web's talkification.

Like Skype, Ribbit worked for years to build a software and network infrastructure that combines user computers, phone networks, commerce, social networks, and the Internet.

Skype treats voice like an application, where you control the user experience to control the end-customer relationship.

Unlike Skype, Ribbit thinks of voice as a feature. Features belong in other applications. Developed by the six million people who design and code software. People who solve problems in every country, in every culture, for every situation.

And those people don't work for Ribbit.

Or BT.

They are in the wild. Out of control.

Both BT and Ribbit are happy with that. 

Happy not to control the user experience.

Happy not to control the customer relationship.

Once upon a time (a few world wars' ago) the phone company provided your phone. One model. And it was black.

Then the phone company became a carrier. And you could use whatever phone you liked. Even pink ones for princesses.

Today you can get your Skype any way you like it, so long as it is Skype's user interface.

Ribbit will let you get your phone any way you like it. Period.

Made by anyone who can code.

That's what it means to have a public platform culture.

And Ribbit is bringing that culture to BT. And BT is grooving on it.

The race to add talk everywhere heated up.

The frog is no further ahead in the race, but Ribbit now has the fuel to execute on its vision.

And Skype is catching up but remains far behind.

Ribbit/BT is far from the only company building and selling web talkification infrastructure, but they are one of the few with customers, with funding, and a with a compelling architecture.

Exactly how many talkification infrastructure APIs will programmers learn? That's how much room there is in the market.


3 March 2008

"Thank God for Skype!"
-- Oprah Winfrey

2. Skype Sponsors Oprah's "A New Earth" Web Event.

Some people are more influential than others. And then there's Oprah Winfrey.

"Thank God for Skype!"

You can't believe what Oprah's unpaid endorsement and personal enthusiasm has meant to Skype in the United States.

Name recognition is up.

Anxiety is down.

Use is up.

Producers Skype speakers into the studio.

Reporters Skype from the field, including the Democratic and Republican conventions. 

People drag their social networks onto Skype. Friends and family and workplaces don't want to be left out. 

No mention of VoIP, not even of voice, just video calls. Video became the reason you use Skype.

This was a breakthrough moment in Skype's last hold-out market. The ice has been broken.

How will Skype continue the conversation with the United States and Canadian publics that Oprah started? 


1 October 2007

free from buyout cuffs
visionaries innovate
skype breathes free again

3. Niklas Zennstrom Steps Down as CEO of Skype.

This was a great thing for Skype.

It broke the bonds eBay put on Skype.

They didn't mean to, but when eBay offered Skype's founders US$1.7 billion if they hit sales and census targets, eBay forced a myopic tunnel vision on the company.

Any new hire, new feature, new product, new partnership needed to advance sales, to advance user adoption. Any new idea or opportunity, no matter how strategic, that didn't meet that payout test starved for management attention and resources.

So the Skype products didn't change much for two years.

eBay paying off the founders and writing down the purchase left Skype with a fresh start. Free to innovate and reengineer. Free to respond to competitive threats from phone companies (like BT). Free to experiment and examine Skype's underlying purpose and value.


Look at the new Skype directory. Hybrid web service and rich client.

Look at how the new Skype 4 beta client is running on top of a Skype for Windows 3.8 engine, further separating UI from services, the way you must to deliver talk via browser. 

Look at Skype hiring leaders from outside the phone carriers with street cred at Evite and Motorola.

Look at the coming Skypecasts service retirement.

Each of these decisions speak to a company liberated. A company becoming decisive and thoughtful in its direction.

Very good for Skype.


To recap:

A bad day: Skype isn't even in the paradigm-shifting race to talkify the web

A good day: Skype's US and Canadian markets are warming nicely in Oprah's glow

A great day: Skype freed from golden shackles.


Doesn't year six look interesting?


See also:

  • Video of Ribbit's Crick Waters describing the Ribbit platform ("the voiceware economy") at the Emerging Communications Conference earlier this year. 20 minutes.
  • Video of Trevor Baca of Jaduka at eComm. Jaduka offers much of the same infrastructure.
  • CNN Joins Oprah; Puts Skype in the Picture

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