I remember the first time I rode on the Disney attraction It’s a Small World. The key message is that we all live in a small world, and we all work together and should communicate with each other. Beyond the message, the reality is the attraction consists of hundreds of dedicated systems controlling each of the figures or sets of figures. Each system is optimized to the movement of that figure or set. As you move through the attraction, you interact with each scene, much as we interact with websites in the web.
Over the last few months there is ever increasing evidence that we are truly moving to a web world after all. For example, in February Facebook (News - Alert) indicated in a blog post that it had 800 million users that used Facebook Messenger in December and about 100 million used video chat. In other words, Facebook is becoming a huge communications company, but only in the context of Facebook users talking to other Facebook users about things Facebook, or social, or personal or…
At the same time, Microsoft (News - Alert), Go-To-Meeting, and Cisco have added web guest capabilities to their platforms. In both WebEx and Go-To-Meeting the ability to use the web to invite a guest to a collaboration session shows that they realize that closed communities are a thing of the past (read Skype (News - Alert)). Microsoft has added a web collaboration guest to the Skype for Business offer as well. Similar capabilities are available from the full range of meeting collaboration vendors. Clearly we have already arrived at the point where I can join five different collaboration events delivered by five different platforms and have five different experiences without having to load five different applications. This is the web model for meetings: Invite me to a URL, one click, and in.
That is great when I am invited to a meeting. But what about when I want to interact with you? This is where the dreaded word federation raises its head. Clearly, the largest systems that represent a place people can come to interact with me are based on the federation model. The PSTN is the largest federated network (where servers interact with other servers on behalf of the users) in the world. However, it is also a great example of the underlying problem with federation, the Least Common Denominator effect. In fact, in the PSTN you only get a 10-digit phone number, caller ID (maybe), and low quality voice. Similarly, email is the largest federated information system, and the last one after 1993.
While Microsoft has demonstrated the value of federation in Lync/Skype for Business, if we are both using S4B we can see presence, IM, voice, video, etc. However, it is a single vendor solution. Companies like NextPlane sell federation services, but they add cost and complexity. A new set of web model-based ways to extend beyond the phone number is emerging.
For example, in Cisco (News - Alert) Spark there are traditional models of working with other users of the system both within your organization and other customers. As Spark is WebRTC based, these extend out to guests who are invited to meetings. However, Cisco also offers a free version of Spark, so anyone can sign up for a Spark account and use that to interact as a Spark user with anyone on Spark. For example, I can use a free Spark account to join a room with you and then get notifications if you are in the room. I can send you a message to see if you can come to the room. While the free account has some scale limitations, these are only associated with rooms or meeting hosted, they do not apply when joining rooms hosted by a paying subscriber. This concept of individual collaboration changes the game. While Microsoft has promised this capability between the free app Skype and the paid app Skype for Business, it is really not in place yet, but will be soon.
Another interesting use of the web paradigm is in evidence by Masergy. It has implemented a cloud-based WebRTC interface that allows a user directory for name search that yields a URL that, when clicked, will call an individual user. So after getting this URL, I can now use it to click for that individual at any time. In my discussions with the Masergy team, they mentioned they could see adding communications context to this solution.
The result of all of these changes is that, increasingly, the path to interact with an individual or a company is not a phone number, but a URL. That URL may be on Facebook, Skype, Spark, Masergy or a hundred other vendors, but it is a unique web address that points to the one place you can reach that individual. And you can save that URL in your browser or in your contacts as a path to that individual or company. As a contact, that path can be saved in your Outlook or other contact files as a URL, so it is easy to go back to that user/web location. In other words, it is a web world after all. The web model of communications is emerging, and it is time to understand what that means to your company or organization. Just as the World Wide Web transformed the information world from the closed systems of AOL (News - Alert) and the LCD of dial-up telnet, the new world will be a rich communications experience optimized to the specific business process you are doing. Look to interact with your customers, partners, and friends though a URL near you. To learn more about the web world and communications, attend Real Time Web Solutions Aug. 1-4 n New York City.
Phil Edholm is with PKE Consulting LLC (www.pkeconsulting.com).
Edited by Stefania Viscusi