Eric Krapf
Eric Krapf is General Manager and Program Co-Chair for Enterprise Connect, the leading conference/exhibition and online events brand in the...
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Eric Krapf | January 17, 2013 |


From the Old Telco World to the New

From the Old Telco World to the New When you can make calls over Facebook, you have to stop thinking of them as "calls."

When you can make calls over Facebook, you have to stop thinking of them as "calls."

Facebook seems to be moving very quickly to become a phone provider. I suggested in my previous post that plain-vanilla voice calling is a good feature to add to a site like Facebook (or Twitter or LinkedIn), to increase the stickiness. Not because you necessarily need to integrate a whole bunch of media together, but because Facebook or similar sites are often the quickest way to find the person you want to talk to. I think we could be seeing the emergence of a new sort of public network/DNS service for the telephony of the future, which is likely to originate on mobile phones and be carried as VOIP.

However, it's instructive to look at some of the Comments on the above-linked article about Facebook's new iPhone VOIP rollout. Here's one that touches on the concern over security and privacy that always accompanies anything to do with Facebook: "now facebook will have phone logs for many folks," one commenter writes.

Telephony providers have always had your phone logs; they couldn't function as telephony providers if they didn't have this capability. The difference is that in the PSTN world of (what's rapidly becoming) the past, there were very clear laws that dictated what the carrier could and couldn't do with that personal information of yours, when they were obligated to turn it over to authorities, and whether they could re-sell it (they couldn't). Even if you'd wanted to, you couldn't have signed away these protections in your service contract.

So now come Facebook and all the other freemium sites that wouldn't exist--and thus would be unable to bestow upon you their many benefits--were it not for the prospect of harvesting your data and re-using it somehow. You've willingly signed away this privacy in return for these benefits.

And it could be argued, who really cares about your calling patterns, once you've already released into the world pictures of yourself doing embarassing things, or even just things that you'd normally figure no one else but your friends would care about--until someone does? If you've "liked" your Facebook friend's political rant, you've essentially let the world listen in on a "conversation" already. Maybe the idea that who you call is your own business, is already a quaint artifact of a bygone era.

On the other hand, there was this comment: "Now anyone in your friends list can call you. Most people's friends list are filled with acquaintances. I understand you don't have to answer the call but now it will be easier for strangers to contact you. Just wait until a corporation that you liked starts calling you to advertise." What that sounds like is the Good Old Days&trade when your phone number was printed in a thick book with thin pages for everyone to see and call, even those you didn't care to hear from.

I think where this ends up is that voice truly is no longer a special form of communication, the way it had to be when just getting sound from one place to another required a feat of engineering.

Regulating communications over the Web is a non-starter. So as users, we'll just have to regulate ourselves.

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