June 13, 2007

Speculating on Yoomba Magic

Earlier in the day Andy Abramson posted about a new startup called Yoomba that claims that its users will be able to talk to or chat with anybody who has an email address. At first blush, this claim sounds a bit outlandish enough to reject it outright (I have an email id, but check it only twice a day as Marc Andreessen suggests; have an email id but I have declared email bankruptcy). But then they are a startup and should get a chance to demonstrate their technology before they are voted out of the island. Unfortunately they are under private beta and they are a bit coy with the technical details. But this alone is enough of a motivation for a self described sleuth to speculate on how they manage to offer the service that they claim to offer.

They indicate in the Help section that Yoomba application is installed in the userís PC which copies all the contact information from the identified email client. Subsequently we are told that any email that appears in IE will have a phone and chat button and the user can click the appropriate button. This much they state it openly, but the real mystery is what happens after that. After all, there need not be any indication of the phone number or chat id that is associated with the highlighted email id. So we have to speculate what might be happening. If the highlighted email id is registered with Yoomba, then they can send a notification to the associated client. If the client is not running or if the id is an unregistered one, then the only thing possible is for Yoomba to generate an email to the highlighted email id giving the particulars of the user requesting a communications session and asking the recipient to click a link. The link may download an ActiveX client that allows for the identified communications mode to take place. Since both the end points effectively originate connection to Yoomba, NAT/FW traversal is not an issue; additionally if they use ICE, the media can flow directly between the two end-points, justifying their claim that they are P2P. As I told at the start itself, this is just a speculation on my part; but it is not clear what else could they be doing.

If this is what they are doing, then the user experience will be different from what happens today. For one thing, there is no presence information. More often than not, the response could be delayed, if at all. Will it be acceptable? I guess we have to wait and see.

Posted by aswath at June 13, 2007 03:49 PM
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