Is VoIP Taking a Snooze? No, Yes, Maybe?
Google Correlate showing VoIP server and Asterisk voicemail searches, peaking at 2005 to 2006
If you do a Google search on “VoIP blogs” or “Asterisk blogs” you will end up with lots of blogs that stopped writing about VoIP in 2010. Some have been abandoned even in 2007 and 2008. Is Asterisk and VoIP as a technology over it’s big glory days? Is this going to slow down the development of new features in VoIP? Will platforms other than Asterisk eventually take over? What will happen to Asterisk when hosted (cloud) products and services start becoming more prevalent? What will happen with the web going to voice?
All great questions and maybe even concerns. The fact is, VoIP and Asterisk are still going strong. There are still many markets which have not adopted VoIP as others have, so there is potential for growth. Asterisk will have competition, yet there are many more Asterisk products, services and professionals today than at any other time. VoIP is growing professionally, especially if you look at the global market. In developing countries like Argentina, Brazil, Turkey and Korea, VoIP is a stronger trend than other technology infrastructure fields. It is true that the drop from the limelight of Asterisk and VoIP gets us less attention. The phenomena of trends getting intense media attention then being abandoned is part of the tech cycle (Gartner even came up with the “Hype Cycle” concept.) In VoIP there is something a little different. While the technology is somewhat stable, there is a huge market to replace. The whole telephony market which is more than just the “connections” (wires). It is the handsets and the way people use voice communication. The telephone has not adopted the world of computers, even personal computers. What we can do with text files today does not even exist in the voice domain (that’s a whole subject by itself, lots to think about there).
So instead of looking at Google search results, we need to go deeper and look at adoption of VoIP in the world. This is not only in the enterprise sector with Asterisk servers. This is in the consumer world with Skype like products and services. With recording, editing, sharing, archiving and posting of voice messages. With combining text, voice and images. There are many areas which voice has not been deployed yet. So we also need to watch out for creative entrepreneurs like the Skype founders who will create new products. There is still the whole area of using WiFi with mobile phones. This will probably will take more than just apps like Skype, it will take apps which store messages and connect sporadically when WiFi or even wired Ethernet is available. All these connections and application features will only be useful built on top of existing VoIP technology like Asterisk. This is why continued build-up of the VoIP infrastructure and end user installations needs to continue. Which means keeping up the marketing and technical communication. Also building up more case studies on the business side. This way the business decision makers can keep their attention on the capability of VoIP in their domain: MAKING MONEY!
Finally, we as technology, telephony and computer professionals need to keep in mind that just because we are not getting as much attention in the media as the latest Android app, does not mean we are not doing something meaningful. In the media, technology waves come and go, in real life, technology needs to keep on going strong. That only happens with people and their drive (or is it motivation?) In practical terms that means keeping old VoIP and Asterisk blogs going while readership goes down. Sometimes goes down by a huge percentage. This is because, while VoIP was hot, there were lots of readers who are not in the core profession. There were not even potential consumers or even media professionals. These are the technology “groupies” – like the ones screaming in rock & roll concerts. While the concert is on, they are screaming like crazy in the front row. When the music stops they are off doing something else. If we all live just for that “concert buzz” we would not have anything worth building that endures. OK, back to the “silicon mines”, or is it the “PHP/C VoIP mines” (the term “silicon mines” comes from the days that designing chips was the big thing. Just like today’s development and integration of VoIP, the work was hard, we put in lots of hours, and in the end, we had a thing that we needed to see through a microscope to appreciate. And not many people could appreciate chips. So don’t cry if people don’t appreciate your wonderful voicemail script!)