- Skype, IM and VoIP Ignite- The Enterprise Will Embrace
Before I get into the experience and in order to fully understand and appreciate why I find this experience so progressive, I need to back up a decade ago to the launch of a company called Mirabilis. Mirabilis made the ICQ product. ICQ, short for "I Seek You", was launched over a decade ago by three enterprising Israeli entrepreneurs. ICQ drove online communications out of message boards and forums and into real time text chat. Back in 1997 ICQ really changed how I and many others operated online. Instead of waiting for e-mails to bounce back and forth you could message in real-time. Before that time the closest I had come to chat was on dial-up Bulletin Board Systems that hade multi-chode chat and three inbound phone lines. With IM development, feedback and collaboration suddenly became easier, faster and it cut down geographical barriers and fused the world at incredible speed. It was life and business changing for many people and a very exciting time to experience.
Naturally it was first adopted by technical userers who immediately grasped the concept. It also became essential for online team gaming like Quake, where you had to organize players before a match of TCP/IP based gunslinging action. Families and friends began to use it to communicate, form relationships, stay up to date and it also provided small businesses and virtual workers a whole new way to do interact. Because of the social nature of Instant Messaging it propogated like wildfire passing by word-of-mouth, e-mail and community.
While I still retain my original ICQ number, the digits are so low I simply can't let it go, I have forsaken ICQ and even AOL IM for the most part. I have moved on to Skype. Skype offers voice chat, web cam ability, conference ability and file transfers among other options.
Skype is free, easy to use and fairly good quality for voice calls- plus you can dial land lines or get a SkypeIn number- for free. I keep it open most of my work day, unless I don't want an interruption. With Skype on the desktop I am able to work and communicate with people around the world at the click of a button- it is absolute critical for working global research. If you stop and think about it that is extremely powerful. This is the next wave for the Enterprise too, as customers will demand to interact with businesses in the format they choose.
One look at Google trends of Google Chat and AIM versus Skype shows just how monumental and fast Skype use has ignited. So on with my experience...
Recently Chris Boyd and had a conversation with a reporter from a very high profile magazine. That isn't news of course. We do that all the time. What was novel is that we did it via Skype. That may not seems like a big deal, but this reporter didn't flinch when it was suggested we utlilize Skype to connect everyone- no problem at all!
I simply cannot imagine that happening two years ago. Having a Skype call with a technically savvy reporter is progressive and underscores how businesses are adopting this communication tool for their work. Skype is becoming as ubiquotous as Google if you think about terms like "Skype Me" or "Google It".
Naturally all of this free communication without the barriers doesn't come without some risk. IM networks can be attack vectors for worms as we detailed in a recent threat and as with any virtual communication you don't know for sure that who you are talking with is really are who they claim to be. In many cases threats from unknown people with unknown agendas can be risky too.
Instant Messaging is a rich petri dish for social engineering and it is also laced with fast-circulating rumors. Going back to ICQ again one of the old and long standing ICQ rumors was that Mirabilis was going to charge for their service. It never happened and AOL bought ICQ a few years ago, but that didn't stop the rumors from flying all across the Web fueled by the IM medium. Many people believed the rumors if the outcry on the Web was accurate.
In terms of businesses many are starting to embrace IM and VoIP and this is partly powered by the incredibly lush features and partly because employees themselves are introducing the tools into the Enterprise on their own. Soon businesses cannot afford not to embrace it because their customers will be demanding it in tandem. Enterprise IM applications are great if you want to communicate inside the Enterprise only, but all businesses have customers and these customers will set the tone for how they want to communicate with the business.
Will Skype supplant land lines? Probably not anytime soon, but lots of home users and business users are embracing it at a rate that is astounding. Voice 2.0 is upon us and it is an exciting time to be on the Internet.