December 03, 2007

2008: Year of Flash based VoIP Clients

This time of the year traditionally people predict what is going to be a big hit next year. I am going to try my hand at this.

During the last couple of months there has been lots of talk about people building Flash based SIP clients to simplify web-based calls. In case you do not recall them, here is a list:

  • Ribbit Phone announced at 360|Flex that it is working on a Flex-based phone component that “will give Rich internet application developers the ability to make and receive calls, record/send and receive voicemail, as well as add and manage contacts.” According to Ryan Stewart who has seen a demo of this widget: “The widget allows you to dial any phone and answer calls to your phone right from the browser. As part of the service you can specify a number to dial from which then shows up on the caller id of the person you’re dialing. There is a messaging feature built into the application so that anyone can call your number and it will ring both on your phone as well as inside the browser application. You can answer it from the app and use a microphone to talk. If you aren’t there, the system tracks your messages so you can see a list of them and play them back individually. It sounds like they’ll also be offering a transcribing service so you can get an email with both the sound file attached and a text version of the message.” It looks like the general release is scheduled for December 13th.
  • TringMedia has announced a softclient that is close to the above description of Ribbit Phone component. It is possible there is a tie-in there somewhere. (Techcrunch saw it fit to mention them in two different posts.)
  • Tom Keating reported on a softclient/service from Flashphone, which uses Flash. He noted in the passing that there is “a bit of latency”. Alec Saunders in his post that referred to Flashphone indicated that the current crop of Flash based clients have latency and jitter issues possibly because they use TCP and not UDP. In an unrelated post he had mentioned that PuddingMedia has reached an agreement to supply a Flash based VoIP client to Meebo. (According to a Google translation of a web page, Flashphone is independent of Ribbit Phone.)
  • With all these activities based on Flash 9, recently Adobe announced a new project codenamed Pacifica. According to their blog:

  • Pacifica is built on top of the open standard SIP protocol.
  • Our first mission is to maintain the highest quality voice experience possible, pushing the boundaries of the Flash Platform.
  • Right now, Pacifica enables point-to-point (P2P) transmission of the media channel once the connection is established via our servers.
  • We are dedicated to a complete P2P solution going forward, to eliminate the complex server back end and configuration needed with most VoIP technologies.
  • Finally, Tom Evslin and Jeff Pulver announced recently that they are planning to fom a R&D team in Israel to work on FWD International. In a recent post, Tom writes about the kind of people they are looking for: “Lots of flash experience never hurt, either; and SIP or other VoIP experience, preferably at the UDP level, would be helpful.”

    Don’t you agree with me that we are set to see lots of VoIP clients based on Falsh that uses UDP for media transfer?

    Posted by aswath at December 3, 2007 12:23 PM
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    I agree that there will be lots of them that "flash" in 2008. My guess is that none will make any money and the only one to survive will be Adobe because they will likely bundle it for free with their Flash download.

    What would be great, but will probably never happen is a neat little Flash widget that allowed you to make pure SIP calls, i.e. with the provider of your choice or point-to-point that's free and doesn't have some sort of advertising associated with it. Something like a Flash based, SIP VoIP version of the old talk program for UNIX.


    Posted by: Frank Miller at December 3, 2007 01:24 PM

    With your well wishes, you can expect to see just such a widget from EnThinnai. We are working on it.

    Posted by: Aswath at December 3, 2007 01:41 PM

    Good post Aswath, thanks for the pointers.

    I like the idea of a flash based interface abstracted from the actual device - like the services described. It's kind of like itunes for the ipod.

    The ability to support multiple devices means that the service is ubiquitous. None of this 'gateway' talk that confuses users. "Use your existing stuff!" is a good sales point.

    Of course, telephony is only one part of today's communication - I hope we see more developments along the lines of modelling conversations better. Hint hint

    Posted by: matt lambert at December 3, 2007 04:01 PM

    Great post Aswath,

    As a key member of TringMe team, I can clarify that there is no tie-up between TringMe and any other companies. We developed this platform from scratch and here are some technical details about how we developed it

    On Jitter, we have adaptive jitter buffer in our platform (part of voice engine in above post) that allows us to maintain quality even in low bandwidth.

    Btw, you gave us new name TringMedia!!! and we liked it so much that we grabbed the domains immediately – so our next product is named by you - thanks Aswath :)

    Posted by: Yusuf Motiwala at December 5, 2007 04:19 AM

    Hello All,
    Is there any open source flash and web based softphone or dialer available?

    Posted by: krut at December 26, 2007 03:49 AM

    A good question, but unfortunately do not know of any. Probably others may know.

    Posted by: Aswath at December 26, 2007 03:12 PM

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