I had a chance to catch up with Jeff Pulver last night and hear about his ambitions for FWD International. He has recruited Tom Evslin, Dan Berninger, and Yossi Vardi to join this relaunch of what was Free World Dialup (FWD). FWD was arguably the original VoIP business. In twelve years it provisioned 700,000 SIP accounts and provided SIP registration, peering, and PSTN connectivity. As disruptive to the telcos revenue stream as that was, the services it provided were essentially a re-implementation in IP of the traditional telco model. In this next iteration of the business, they plan to make a clean break from the past, renounce the POTS legacy, and re-invent real-time and near-real-time communication.
Their first effort is a Facebook application for leaving Voice Mail but they are planning to turn FWD into a platform that will let any developer take advantage of their services. If through doing this they can further the development of social networks as the basis for communication that will be a good thing. One way to sum it up:
- Old: I want to call Jeff, so I reach for my phone and dial his number. I may have a built-in directory so I can dial by name, and I may have shopped around for a cheaper way of calling him if he's in Israel, but it's still a phone call.
- New: I need to communicate with Jeff, e.g. to ask him a question. I find him in my social network and tell my computing device (desktop, laptop, mobile device, etc.) to contact him through the most convenient means, which is more likely to be a text message but could also be voice (live or stored). When he replies, it is through the mode that is most convenient for him, which may or may not be the same mode I used initially.
I.E. It's not about a phone call, it's about communicating.