Twelephone is VoIP for Twitter: A social network doing VoIP in a web browser.
Social networks and VoIP OTT players are going to fight it out around VoIP services soon, with WebRTC technology in the thick of it all. This time, I wanted to introduce a startup that integrates VoIP with a social network – Twitter.
Chris Matthieu is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of Twelephone. I reached out to him with a couple of questions. Here are his answers.
What is Twelephone all about?
The goal of Twelephone is to add real-time communications to Twitter including voice, video, presence, and instant messaging using a modern Node.JS, HTML5, WebRTC, and WebSocket approach. Twelephone is being designed with peer-to-peer, encryption, and high definition audio and video and collaboration in mind.
Why have you decided to use Twitter as the user ID instead of Facebook or your own?
Twitter is probably the best messaging platform available today. Twelephone uses Twitter for authentication and direct messaging when video/voice messages are available. We also plan to use Twitter for conference invitations/notifications as well as twelephone call invitations, etc.
Using Twitter authentication also provides information like user avatars, names, bios, profile pages, etc. Every Twelephone number matches the user’s Twitter handle (i.e. twitter.com/chrismatthieu and http://twelephone.com/chrismatthieu). Twitter also provides a layer of reputation of the user name so that a new telephone user can’t pretend to impersonate others online.
It does make sense to extend Twelephone support to other social platforms in addition to Twitter. Facebook could be a challenge since they seem to be aligned with Microsoft and Skype. Other interesting Twelephone plays would be LinkedIn and Salesforce Chatter.
Do you use anything of Twitter besides the user ID?
The Twitter messaging platform (DMs and tweets). We also consider Twitter to be a great directory service for Twelephone.
Would you define yourself more of a VoIP engineer or a web developer?
I have 10 years of telecom experience mostly focused on software development, APIs, and cloud platforms. I have founded and sold 3 companies so far (two of which were telecom related). My two most recent start-ups included Teleku (http://teleku.com) which was acquired by Voxeo and Nodester (http://nodester) which was acquired by AppFog last month. I would consider myself a business-minded web developer rather than a pure VoIP engineer.
What challenges did you encounter with WebRTC?
WebRTC is a game changer. There are several challenges with using it:
- Keeping up with Google’s development – The WebRTC APIs are changing and you must continue reworking your implementation to keep up with them.
- There are other WebRTC features such as the Data Channel that are needed for Twelephone but not yet available. I am using WebSockets to meet my immediate goals of data channels and will need to rework the implementation once this feature is available in Chrome.
- WebRTC with peer connection support is only available in Chrome and it also requires that the flag be enabled. This is creating user on-boarding challenges with using Twelephone. I realize that the other browsers will soon support the full implementation of WebRTC and it’s a good opportunity to be early to the market with this type of a solution.
What would you change in WebRTC given the opportunity?
I would like to add an “Always remember” option to allowing permissions to the user media based on a site domain.
What’s next for Twelephone?
Presence, chat, notifications, and voice/video calls are working on Twelephone today. I am in the process of adding more features around the chat to make it even more pervasive and closer connected to Twitter. I am also in the process of adding a personal contact directory to the site allowing you to star users for quick access and notification messages. I would also like to add support for SIP in the near future too so that Twelephone could be extended to enterprise networks. A mobile app is also definitely on the roadmap!
Any business plan for Twelephone or is this mostly a kind of a “hobby”?
Twelephone is being built and released as incremental updates. The site is live in alpha mode so use at your own risk I would love to see Twelephone become the preferred realtime communications platform of the Internet. Our fundamental goal is to position Twelephone as a Skype-killer.
The entire programming community raised concerns when Microsoft acquired Skype and converted their P2P network design to leverage the Microsoft network. This means that your conversations are no longer private. Skype also requires that you download and install a client application to use the platform. Twelephone will offer everything that Skype offers without a client application – only a web browser. Twelephone will also be P2P and support encrypted and HD audio and video plus chat and presence.
The cost of running Twelephone in a P2P environment is relatively low and the value proposition for the user is high. We are considering revenue options that include yellow page listings and possibly PSTN support provided on a per minute basis. Other revenue opportunities are based on enterprise upgrade features for call centers and private cloud solutions as well.
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