Friday, February 02, 2007

Where are the Web 2.0 Developers?

A few days ago, David Beckemeyer asked where all the Web 2.0 developers were. David's the founder of Phone Gnome, which provides a web API for making next generation telephony applications. Since the API was released, only a few companies have taken advantage of it. In a response to comments, David clarifies his position:

My point was more to the whining by the pundits, experts, analysts, bloggers, and other net know-it-alls about the telcos not opening their platforms, about net neutrality issues holding them back, and such, when the platform for offering these apps exists here and now and requires no more capital than putting up your average Wordpress or MT blog. So now what’s their excuse?

Well, seeing as I'm a member of at least two of the whining groups that David mentions, I'd like to offer an excuse, since David's asking for one. Let me be clear that I actually INTEND to use Phone Gnome soon, and the only reason I haven't yet is that I'm busy working with a bunch of other Web 2.0 APIs right now, and there's only so much time. I like what they have. I like what they've done. It's good. Save me some, please.

We have made a big mistake in our industry by thinking that adding these additional features will revolutionize our phone experience, and if we could just find the right mix, the world would beat a path to our door. Sell on features, they say, not on price. Frankly, we better, as the price is going to zero. To the point - if you could make the best phone application in the world, I firmly believe it would not be enough to guarantee wide-scale adoption and success for the company that developed it. Why? Forrester Research answered it for the mobile market in a recent report: education. People don't use services they don't know about. If you don't know a service exists, then you won't use it. But it's worse, even if people DO know about a service, it must become habituated. Habituation is hard to do with anything that doesn't involve caffeine, heroin or redheads. It better be good. Habituated services can become viral, but you've got to get hooked first.

Look at Iotum for God's sake - you might be able to come up with a better set of Voice 2.0 applications, but I doubt it. If you listen to their pitch, or use their service, you get it. You have the problem they are solving. You really do. And they solve it. They really do. Why aren't the carriers getting it, and deploying it like mad? Well, I think it's been such a long time since there was anything of that caliber available to them that they don't believe they can get over the education and habituation hurdle. For their sake, and Iotum's, I hope they shake it off and get that service widely deployed.

If it's true that you need home runs like Iotum to get voice 2.0 applications written, then will there ever be more than ten applications written for Phone Gnome? I say it's an unqualified yes. That's because I believe that the real game for Voice 2.0 is the integration of voice into the business process. Businesses want to do it because it saves them money with a more efficient process and fewer staffing requirements. Customers want to do it because it means better customer service. There's no education requirements for the customer. No habituation. All the customer sees is that text message on their cell phone saying the plane at 4PM is canceled, and when they press the send button, the operator answers the phone saying "I've booked a seat on the 5 PM flight, Mr. Howe, if that's OK with you." And that would be OK with me. And the people who write the web sites for Jet Blue will use Phone Gnome, and that's where the Web 2.0 developers are.

There and in the Comfort Inn in Sanford, Florida.


mmaeir said...

You hit it on the head!
We have to stop thinking how we can improve the traditional phone service with *new* applications.

As Jeff Pulver says - "voice is just another application". That means that in an IP world, we don't talk about telephones but about applications and services. A service can include different types of media and delivery mechanisms. As an end user I don't care how you do it, as long as the end result is helpful. Examples - iotum and the reservation example you brought in your post. More on this at my blog

David Beckemeyer said...

Nice post. A lot of good points. Of course I agree with mmaeir that it's not about telephones but "applications and services" and that "A service can include different types of media and delivery mechanisms." Exactly. And the PhoneGnome platform is ONE DELIVERY MECHANISM, a vehicle to deliver your application/service to billions of household phones people are already using, in a practical and affordable way. I'd argue that such a delivery vehicle could be game changing. PhoneGnome doesn't preclude the service from also supporting other media and delivery mechanisms, but it makes a new one (that otherwise is probably impossible, or certainly impractical) a reality.

The basic idea is that if you are already building this new wonderful service, it's super easy to adapt it for PhoneGnome. Take the iotum case. PhoneGnome is the reason iotum service is avalable for any household, on any phone number, using any phone carrer/service, in North America TODAY. It doesn't mean PhoneGnome is the only delivery vehicle/media iotum can use, but it was almost zero-cost to deploy to the PhoneGnome platform as one delivery mechanism. As we say, it couldn't hurt.

sexy said...