Business internet

Interview with Jeff Pulver for "Hardcopy", newsletter of ISPA

Jeff Pulver
Jeff Pulver

The Digital Britain report dominates current debate in the UK internet related industry. Its aim is, broadly put, is to promote universal use of broadband and to stimulate the digital knowledge economy thus keeping the country competitive in the 21st century. Although facilitating the plumbing of this digital economy, the Government quite rightly leaves the innovation of new ideas for delivery down the pipes to industry.

New York based innovator Jeff Pulver was a prime mover during the pioneering years of the VoIP industry. He started the Voice On the Net conferences and was founder of the company that evolved into Vonage, the US based VoIP telco. Jeff has since moved his attention to helping to create the wave of the Social Networking technology revolution. Both areas of technology, whilst requiring an underlying network to support them, hinge on the development of new ideas and applications.

TD: What parallels can you see between what was happening in the early days of VoIP and today in Social Networking?

 JP:  Social Networking has been part of the human experience since there was documented human experience. My focus is on the evolution of social communications, something I call: SocComm and what happens next as the world shifts from a dial-tone generation to a presence based one.

Back in the early days of VoIP we had dialup and slow computers and limited quality for the voice experience but it did not hold back a generation of people who were hobbyists by night but technology explorers by day who experimented with the technology and understand the power of what it meant when voice could be an application and no longer be a utility service.

I believe the advent of the widespread availability of social networking platforms such as Facebook and twitter are going to have a more profound impact on the future of communications in the next 5 years ahead than what we have seen in the VoIP space in the past 15 years.

TD: Aside from the by know well known business models associated with advertising, where do you see the moneytization of Social Networking?

JP: I am not a fan of pushing business models into nascent industries. Business models are disruptive to innovation and should never be forced into an ecosystem. What we will see emerge is another example of how disruptive technologies change the face of business in ways that were obvious to some by blindsided by others.

I believe presence will be moneytized with the advent of social communication. Presence will emerge to be a 25 billion dollar business.

TD: The battle against regulation of VoIP in the USA has been a feature of your career activities over the past ten years. Is there a similar debate to be had in the space you are in now?

JP:  The fight is about to begin. Any platform which attracts 175 million active users (and growing) will get the attention of the government. My challenge is to see this space remains regulation free for the foreseeable future. (Maybe this is the foreshadowing of a future unannounced statement from me. hint hint)

TD: The UK has traditionally been strong in the production and delivery of content such as music and TV and this is recognised as a strength that our Government wants to maintain. Do you see any signs of internet innovation coming out of the UK in other areas?

JP: There were other signs in the late 90s and the post dot-com bubble but at the moment there are not a lot of hi-tech UK companies on my personal radar. I would like to change that.

TD: Can you paint a picture of life in the new Socially Networked world

JP:  It is world where people are more real, we know the identity of the people we are communication with and a world where each of us contribute daily to the social sculpture known as the Internet.

TD: Whilst initially slated as a consumer oriented technology, Social Networking has now been adopted by large corporations as a marketing tool. Do you have an example of where this has worked successfully?

JP:  Just ask the CEO of Zappos – @Zappos on twitter. They did a billion dollars in sales in 2008 and they have just about their entire organization focused on social media and on twitter. The Blue Shirt Nation of BestBuy is another example. This is the case where BestBuy launched their own internal social network for 130,000 people. These enabling technologies can and will change the world.

TD: Thank you very much for your time Jeff. You have had a punishing travel schedule over the past few months promoting Social Networking and have now started to raise the bar with conferences such as SocCom. Please accept my best wishes for the success with this activity.

Thanks for the opportunity to be read today. If you would like to learn more about my activities, please visit my blog – and follow me on twitter – .

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