mnot’s blog

Design depends largely on constraints.” — Charles Eames

Friday, 22 July 2005


Transformational Standards

Don Box (whose blog doesn’t seem to be taking comments any more, so I’ll do it over here) points out some very cool technology he’s using, Microsoft’s Office Communicator. Sounds very slick, I’m jealous (with my old tech phone line and last year’s GSM mobile)!

I think it’s fair to give a nod to the standards that Communicator are built upon, SIP and SIMPLE. The fact is, this very cool technology demo wouldn’t even be a gleam in a Microserf’s eye if it weren’t for them.

That’s because before SIP, the only way into a telephone exchange was through a very painful and expensive negotiation with a major telecoms vendor for access to their APIs, interop work, and IP licensing. A hacker couldn’t rock up and program a whole new app that the telecom industry couldn’t even think of (even if it would save said industry).

As a result, there’s a burgeoning field of efforts out there that includes not only Communicator, but also cool stuff like Asterisk, Shtoom, and even my employer’s offering, WebLogic SIP Server. You can now get phone service without talking to a phone company, and that’s just the start, as Don shows us.

Note that this didn’t come from the big telecom vendors; it came from the Internet, which has a completely different culture, and very different incentives. If the big telecom vendors had done it, you’d still need to talk to them to make it work, and that would stifle those hackers. Sound familiar?

An excellent demonstration of open standards as a platform for innovation.