WebRTC Expert Feature

June 19, 2013

Why Skype Cannot be Killed, Even if Microsoft Adopts WebRTC

In the past, discussion has been raised as to whether Skype could be laid to rest by any ol’ WebRTC developer, a Google-led federation of all the players, or by mortally wounding itself. Continuing to ponder it all, I came to the conclusion today that although WebRTC could create a new paradigm that equals or surpasses Skype in users, Skype can now safely consider itself legacy. My logic? Glad you asked.

Skype changed the market on International Settlements; virtually wiping out a diamond mine of supplemental revenue the carriers thought was safe (particularly after the FCC forced a rate reduction). The dominance of the U.S. market for International calls, however, did not solve all settlement issues. As a result, almost every International call became a Skype call. And Skype even took it one step further, connecting to the PSTN network to make it so that they could terminate any call initiated on their network. Soon enough, Skype was turning up on TV (“The Big Bang Theory” among other program references) and a U.S. Court judge was even ordering its use by an estranged father. Skype was not only in the mainstream, but had crossed over to universal and ubiquitous.

So here is my point: Skype became the top-dog, first mover, on displacing the cost of International calls - a change in behavior driven by economics.

So, what in WebRTC is going to motivate the end user to take advantage of these new services? Well, the answers are straightforward for individual use cases: Call center and remote work cost benefits, and website-facilitated conference calls. None of these use cases, however, attack a common goal. Websites are now as numerous as the stars above, though I doubt any of them want to help you make a connection that would result in you leaving their site. If, though, the site connects to a call center where the goal is to make a sale, then you remain “captive.” And if the solution is a remote work solution, then again, the enterprise has not broken down the walls but has merely extended the perimeter.

And now here is the real catch: What makes these islands want to connect? Nothing. I don’t think they want to connect.

The most interesting part perhaps is that Google doesn’t want them to either. Just like Cisco has never met a protocol they didn’t like, it could very well be that Google has never met an island to which it did want to facilitate discovery. And if Google does not see the need to unite these islands of implementation, then we can assume that they represent the 800-pound gorilla in the room to thwart the attempts by others at federation.

Here is the heart of the matter: You don’t want your TV channels to talk to each other; you only want the edge to be able to support them all.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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