Facebook’s answer to Voxer and Twitter: Die

Well.

Last week I wrote about how Facebook blocked Voxer’s access to their API. Today Facebook clarified that their reason for doing this was because it replicated core Facebook functionality. This feature is the VoIP calling that Facebook added about a month ago, and to call that core is sort of a joke, but that’s not the point. So, Facebook copied Voxer’s business, which is legal, and then blocked Voxer’s access to its system on the basis that Voxer was replicating core Facebook functionality. What? Read more »

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Voxer and Facebook: Keep Your Enemies Closer

3rd Party API’s and Your Business

Facebook, Twitter and many other massive corporations have treasure troves of data just waiting to be harnessed. As an app developer, you can use this data to build an empire, just like Twitter (which was essentially a skunkworks project metamorphosed into grand vision). That is, unless you piss off the company that owns all that beautiful data.

As was the case with Twitter and their recent Developer trials and tribulations, other companies are realizing that Open is also Hard. Facebook recently announced it would be cutting off Voxer’s access to its API because Voxer doesn’t contribute enough data back to Facebook (if anyone can find this in Facebook’s Developer Terms, I’d love to see it). This is a direct result of Facebook entering the VoIP market, and one has to wonder why they didn’t just cut off SnapChat’s access when they launched Poke. This should serve as an intentional shot across the bow from Facebook and a swift lesson in using someone’s API for your business. Let’s dive in to the case for and against using an external API.

The 3 Metrics That Matter: Growth, Growth, Growth

Most VCs want to see growth and lots of it. In fact, one could argue that our Growth economy couldn’t exist without it. In the feverish rush to acquire users for consumer products the appeal of opt-in email lists has been prevalent for some time. Getting users on the mailing list was of paramount importance because it let you market to them. Social is the same but with inherently more virality because of the number of interactions each user has each day. Attracting users through social engineering on sites like Facebook can help facilitate growth in a startup that might otherwise take quite a great deal of time (see Instagram, Viddy and arguably Voxer). Accessing Facebook’s data is valuable because you can get more users very quickly. It is, however, not without its tradeoffs, specifically in the form of the Damacles sword; the guillotine of blocked access. If, one day, Facebook can break your app by turning off your access, do you have a business or are you the victim of a protection scheme?

The case for going it alone

When you build a business organically without relying on other infrastructures, the success and failure of that business is yours and yours alone. This is both frightening and deeply empowering. Your business lives, or dies, by your hand, but the truth is that in either case this is true, it’s just easier to fail faster in the former case. Users that see your product as a destination instead of an addendum are inherently stickier and will likely result in more revenue over time. If you are building a non-freemium business many of your peers go this route.

So what’s the right answer?

Voxer may survive this fight for one simple reason: Facebook is a component of a larger solution. Building a business that is beholden to one particular API is like being a cobbler who only buys shoe inventory from one designer. If that designer decides to capriciously raise their prices (or stop selling you shoes entirely) your business will need to pivot or die. When you build on top of someone else’s API you are creating a situation where the fate of your company is not entirely in your control. That’s ok, if you can tolerate and plan for that risk (a great way of mitigating this threat is to have multiple sources of data). If you are, however, a control freak, like most Silicon Valley leaders, there is an evaluation that needs to take place when using an external API. Here are the 3 questions you should as yourself before integrating with an external API:

  • What happens to my business if I lose access to this data?
  • Will I threaten the parent of the external API before I achieve my growth goals?
  • Can I do this myself and can I tolerate the slower rampup time?

If you have strong answers for those questions, you can build a business utilizing an external API. If you can’t, I wouldn’t recommend it.

What happens to Voxer now?

I believe Voxer doesn’t need Facebook to survive but it will hamper their revenue growth targets. My impression is that Voxer is moving to pursue the SMB and small Enterprise markets but I don’t know how they’re going to fare without a bridge to the corporate infrastructure. It will be interesting to see how their utilization numbers change due to these Facebook shenanigans.

Disclaimer: I run marketing for an open-source API-based Telecom Infrastructure company. We make stuff ring. Check it out at http://www.2600hz.com

If you enjoyed this article, check out my piece on Twilio and AT&T regarding their API debacle. It’s a doozy.

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AT&T and APIs: Where Does Twilio Land?

Whose APIs is AT&T Running?

Disclaimer: I work as VP of Marketing for 2600hz, the free and open-source cloud telecom company. We work in the same space as Twilio and Voxeo, including APIs, but from an admittedly different vantage point.

News comes out today from AT&T that they will be unveiling a new API based on Voxeo’s Tropo system and Ericsson’s IMS implementation. This comes as a bit of a shock because it was only in October that Twilio announced their work with AT&T providing APIs as well. Dave Michels at Talkingpointz made an excellent point on this topic here, but I still have to know: What the hell is going on here?

Two Voice APIS?

Yes it’s true, AT&T will be offering two voice APIs, at least for the time being. The Twilio stack will be used to deliver applications external to the AT&T network and Voxeo’s Tropo stack will be used to deliver applications internal to the AT&T network. If you want to ring multiple phones from one phone number, use Tropo. If you want to capture digits and perform purchasing with an AWS based database, use Twilio. How did this happen? It’s really a tale of two cities.

Twilio

Twilio had a philosophy that AWS was going to be their infrastructure and they’re going to willfully ignore other infrastructures. There are both pros and cons to this strategy, but it’s quite viable and nothing to sneeze at. The problem for Twilio is that no major Telecom runs in AWS. More precisely, all major carriers run their own proprietary and bizarre infrastructures and there was simply no integration point for Twilio to enter. Truthfully, Twilio can’t integrate with other carriers below the Web API Level, and the overhead of web requests (and relative insecurity) is too great a load for most Carriers. Contrast this with Voxeo.

Voxeo

Now Voxeo essentially WAS Twilio about 6 years ago. The young upstart Voice API company that famously raised a TON of money and then was repurchased by the original founders in a very interesting twist on the leveraged buyout. I’m not one to criticize financial maneuvering, but what the Voxeo guys pulled off was nothing short of Voodoo. So here you had Voice APIs but no real carrier integration. Recognizing this problem years ago, Voxeo built IMS integration for Tropo with all of the major IMS vendors. This is not a simple thing, it takes a lot of time, but the reward is huge. IMS is how applications get into carrier networks, it is the reason Voxeo won AT&T over Twilio. With IMS integration the Tropo stack can exist inside the AT&T firewall, which is something that Twilio can’t, or won’t, do.

What does this mean for Johnny Developer?

If you want to ring multiple phones use Tropo; if you are writing scripts, use Twilio. In the future, applications which use core AT&T services will be carried out over Tropo and Twilio will be relegated to only external applications, unless something drastic happens.

Huge win for Voxeo today, big blow to Twilio, in my humble opinion.

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2013 Predictions for Communications

Happy New Year! It’s Prediction time!

I hope everyone had a pleasant NYE. At the beginning of the year it’s fun to make predictions (well honestly it’s fun any time, but popular to do now). Therefore, I’ll be putting myself out there to see where these ideas lead. Here are three predictions for 2012:

The Rise of WebRTC

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) regularly holds meetings revising the standards we use to communicate on the Web. Everyone has to speak the same sorts of languages in order to have sites which can be read by modern browsers. Their latest revision, called HTML5, contains a piece of Technology called Web Real Time Communication, affectionately dubbed WebRTC by the masses. WebRTC has the power to bring real dramatic change to communication. Here’s how! Read more »

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Top 10 Blog Articles from 2012 for ThePBXBlog.com

2012 was a blur. I can’t believe the year is almost out. As is appropriate when faced with the Rapture and the End of days in the same year, we’re doing a bit of a review today. Here are the top 10 posts, in no particular order, that I selected from my writings over the past year.

Check them out If you have time!

[1] The first selection is an article on our Northern Cousins from Waterloo: RIM. Sadly, the two-headed beast sitting atop the castle is no more, but there’s certainly a lot that’s still worth fixing up North. Check it out here!

[2] The second selection is about disaster recovery. If Sandy taught us anything, it’s that communication and customer awareness are of paramount importance during major cataclysmic events. Read it here!

[3] The third selection involves me correctly predicting the open-sourcing of patents. Check out my powers of prognostication here!

[4] The fourth selection is about Software defined networking and another correct prediction. As stated, Nicira represented market validation andit’s precisely the reason we’ve seen so much M&A activity in the space. Check it out here!

[5] The fifth selection is a policy piece on Google’s positioning with respect to Google Fiber. Read more here!

[6] The sixth selection is about Nokia and the ridiculous things they’ve done up North while trying to get back on track. Nokia should drop $MSFT, but one never knows… Read about Nokia dropping the ball here!

[7] The seventh selection is on the rationality of trust and identity with the current security climate. Hint: It’s not pretty. Read more about Identity and Authentication here! 

[8] The eighth selection is about the ITU, and, specifically, who pays for bandwidth and why. Read it here! This was my most popular piece ever.

[9] The ninth selection is on Jaron Lanier and the nature of Reality. ‘Nuff Said. Read it here!

[10] The tenth and final selection is on the Audacity of Hope. Dare to dream.

It’s been a wonderful year, I am very thankful for where I am today. I look forward to another great year of writing. Thanks for reading my work and have a great holiday season!

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On Jaron Lanier: Is our Reality Binary?

Yes or no? Right or wrong.

Depending upon your viewpoint, the world is either black and white or a varying shade of gray. As I watch great thinkers like noted futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil apply themselves to endeavors that attempt to expand what we think of as reality, I can’t help but wonder if there’s an alternative way to look at these possibilities. Maybe I’m just not hip enough, but when people start talking about resurrection in a digital medium, I put my hand on my wallet. If I told you I was bringing my dead grandfather back to life, you’d look at me like I was crazy, perhaps rightfully so. However, when Ray Kurzweil says he’s going to bring his dead father back to life on ABC news, many listen with rapt attention. Are we just a collection of memories, and can we reduce humanity to a series of flickering lights and nodes? Maybe, but, at least for the sake of argument, let’s consider another viewpoint. Read more »

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Bit Traffic: Who Pays for Internet Traffic and Why?

Who Pays for Internet Traffic and Why?

As the ITU is currently reconsidering much of what we think of as the Internet, I thought it prudent to start a discussion about who pays for Internet Traffic and why they pay for it.

Simply put, right now the originator pays for traffic, but if major European Telcos have their way it will be very different soon. It’s important to understand why we haven’t dealt with Internet traffic in the same way as Telephone Traffic, or rather how they differ. Read more »

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WebRTC Blog up on 2600hz.com

http://blog.2600hz.com/post/35279581811/webrtc-frictionless-communications

Enjoy my latest work!

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Some New Posts Over on Blog.2600hz.com

Did a couple of articles for 2600hz. Tons of fun :D .

Our Other Border Brother: Kamailio

Lessons from Sandy <—- Editor on this one,  content by Darren.

Check them out if you have some time! Should be lots of good stuff coming out in the coming days.

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Crowd Sourcing Patents

I wrote a piece about two months ago regarding Patents. Turns out that the USPTO decided to crowd source Prior Art!

This is cool for a couple reasons. Nobody likes the patent wars, and when the Woz isn’t with it anymore, you know you’re not doing good. But this is a great step in the right direction, provided the execution is well done. Read more »

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