There has been a lot of discussion about the Facebook announcement on Monday November 15th. In fact there was a lot of hype leading up to the announcement. I can’t help but think it was sort of like the run up to the Google Buzz announcement and I could imagine the people at Facebook HQ saying amongst themselves:
“Oh boy, there is an awful lot of hype out there. Are we going to be able to live up to it or will we be the Google Buzz of unified communications announcements?”
I don’t think they can live up to the hype and let me explain why. I can really summarize it to a single sentence:
“Facebook is (mostly) a closed system.”
So how does a website that controls everything become a power player in something as open and free as communications? To be the key player in this space I believe there will be several important criteria:
- Be a fairly open system with open standards and APIs.
- Provide for connections to cutting edge, legacy and strategic systems.
- Rich filtering and logic algorithms.
The importance of an open system
The swell of opportunity created through the open source movement has created great opportunity for an evolution of ideas and made many great things possible. Just look at the extreme contribution of some major open source projects from the last 10+ years (my top 10 list):
- Open Office
- Creative Commons
The API issue is really a no brainer, to get a better idea of why read this article “Top 5 Reasons Why Your Startup Needs an API” while written for startups I think it is a great overview of the importance of APIs without getting too technical.
So if you’re going to make the big messaging play, you better be focused on being open and accessible already.
Being cutting edge while walking with the Dinosaurs
There are so many forms of communications that are viable and would be a part of any true unified communications system. Facebook is still a cutting edge platform in 2010 but they lack key strategic and legacy support that would be essential as the player in the next big messaging platform. Here are a few examples of the different systems:
Cutting Edge (current/bleeding edge tech)
- Cloud Technologies (Google Docs, Dropbox)
- Social Networking Sites (Facebook, LinkedIn)
- Streams (Twitter, Buzz)
- Voice over IP (Skype, VOIP carriers)
Strategic (established tech that is likely to be around for a while)
- Instant/Text Messaging (AIM, SMS)
- HTTPS (Encrypted Web Protocol)
Legacy (older technology that will largely fade away in the future)
- Internet Relay Chat
- HTTP (Web Protocol – yes, Legacy)*
*HTTP should be on its way out, this is a little bit of writer activism on my part. Many would argue it is a strategic technology.
If you review that list and ask yourself, who understands and communicates effectively with everything on that list (and more importantly all the other important resources not on the list)? I guess at this point the answer is no-one, and that is the “what” in unified communications.
The importance of curation, human or machine.
Photo by verbeeldingskr8.
If I were to combine all the communications I receive and process into one place it would be a big ugly mess. This is where the curation of the content will become essential to a unified communications platforms success. Curation will be the “how” in unified communications. The key will be to adequately search, filter and customize the data so that only the most important information is the most readily available. Allowing different ways to respond, perhaps knowing that for example a certain user prefers and responds better to Email, while another user responds more readily to Twitter, and so on. This will provide value on a number of levels. This will be a delicate balancing act because it must be easy for the end user to achieve high adoption rates, while technically pushing the envelope under the hood.
I think in 2010 many people are feeling over-whelmed by the data that they have to process. If you can cut through that mess, you will have a very satisfied customer. This is the “why” of unified communications.