27 May 2008

web 2 - voice 0

The introduction of voice interactions into the social web seems to be a failure in most cases as reported by most observers of the voice 2.0 scene. This article published on the LatestGeekNews blog unveils voice applications usage on Facebook statitics that clearly show how useless they seem to be. It is very much likely that the mainstream Facebook user is not quite the target for these applications, but another major concern about voice applications is that their unicast connection model does not fit well in the social networking space, built around multicast connections. Furthermore, a voice interaction is by nature conversational and content-rich unlike instant messaging interactions : engaging in a phone conversation is a much deeper experience than dropping a chat line on a wall under a nickname cover; not only is it real-time, it is also real-life!

Looking beyond voice applications for the social web, it is an understament to say that the voice 2.0 has not come up with much innovation as pointed in a recent article on FierceVOIP that acknowledges the failure of the VoIP industry to deliver more than IP transport: "Voice 2.0 is here, but there's been no big killer application, it's all just variations of a theme for call forwarding and voice mail and some APIs to slap voice into a web service."

The telecommunication industry, who has embraced the unified communication concept -that is preserving communications silos by providing unified access- is clearly not fostering innovation -which will come from software companies. But after all, this best-of-breed approach is maybe just commonsense as suggested in this crystal clear post from a media expert.

There is however an area where voice 2.0 seems to have delivered its promises : voice search. Indeed, the is a real market need for that kind of application, notably for nomadic users, and providers are fighting to differentiate themselves from the plain old voice search services :

  • Google focuses on ASR technology

  • Chacha is powered by real agents

  • Jingle is building a voice ad network

  • Yahoo focuses on mobile web-enriched content