Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Skype Challenger

I've seen a million (or so it seems) supposed "Skype killers" and, so far, none of them have even been Skype competitors. Om Malik has posted about a new version of Yahoo Instant Messenger. If the things he's saying it's going to be, and there's no reason to believe it won't, are true then Skype will finally have some competition. Om touches on something that only a handful of companies, unfortunatley not including Skype at the moment, are poised to do: blur the lines of communications formats or platforms. The next generation of comm apps have to be able to aggregate communications between you and your friends/family regardless of whether it was text-based (email, chat) or voice (VoIP), real-time or incremental.

Imagine this scenario:
1. You send an IM to a buddy. He/she responds and you start a conversation.
2. You decide to do a voice chat to save your hands from typing.
3. An hour after the conversation ends, you remember to tell your friend "one last thing" and send him/her and email reminder.

Now imagine an application that can save those three communication streams as one. Maybe you give it a subject, for instance "Trip Planning with Victoria". Now you can go back at any time and re-read or re-listen to the various part of the conversation in their different formats. Now imagine you can "tag" these conversations with multiple key words to serve as search or organization criteria later. Assuming OM's correct in his assesment, Yahoo is at least moving in this direction by allowing the user to send an IM, email or voice from a single app. The next logical step is to index and search (assuming people will allow it considering the privacy ramifications). Google seems like the other company that could move there very quickly. They already index your GMail emails and GTalk text chats. The only thing for them to do is index the audio chats.

Of course, there are serious technology requirements to archive all audio chats. I believe this is only a temporary concern as storage prices continue to plummet. Ad revenues could also be used to offset the increasing costs of such a service. Of course, this is all conjecture on my part, but I suspect we'll see it happen soon and for the better of all of us.

No comments: