A little over a hundred years ago, the only way to speak to another person was by being in the same room with them. The landline was then invented and, via copper wire, made it possible to reach another person in the world. The cellular phone then followed in the 90s and, via radio frequency, made it possible to have a conversation with someone while on the go.
The rails for voice have moved far beyond wire and analog radio to digital. What’s interesting, however, is that cellular networks today still separate out voice calls from the internet and SMS traffic that they see. While a majority of voice minutes still occur over a cellular network’s voice-specific network, there is tremendous growth in Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) usage. VoIP is how voice data is transmitted when you’re on a Zoom call or in a Discord server or, perhaps most trendy at the moment, in a Clubhouse room.
VoIP will usher in an era of continued innovation around how we think about and participate in verbal conversations. With VoIP, the following is being made possible:
- You can join an always-on voice channel and share the channel via a hyperlink (ex. Discord)
- You can find someone to talk to without having to think about a specific person in advance (ex. Clubhouse)
- You can call someone just by knowing their name or sharing a link - no phone number needed (ex. Facebook, Zoom)
- You can connect hundreds of people into a call that may start off as 1:1 (ex. Chalk)
- You can have conversations with a group of people while simultaneously streaming music for the group (ex. Roadtrip)
- You can have voice conversations in non-voice specific apps (ex. Bunch)
- You can share a specific phone number with multiple people and field calls as a team (ex. OpenPhone, Acquire.io)
- You can seamlessly record voice conversations (ex. Grain)
- You can process the voice data from recordings to understand what was being said and share intelligent feedback to the speaker (ex. Gong, BrightHire)
- You can train a machine learning model to generate your voice and create voice data by typing (ex. Descript)
I believe that we’re in the earliest of innings of what voice conversations will look like in future. What is certain is that we’ll move far beyond analog 1:1 calls that leave you with no data or feedback when the conversation is done. If you’re building something new around VoIP, I’d love to meet you.
It’s worth noting that many of these new VoIP experiences are being enabled by APIs provided by innovative companies like Agora.io, Zoom, Twilio, Bandwidth, and Vonage. These are, in my opinion, some of the most exciting public companies in the world.
As a last note, I just want to comment on how beautiful the spoken word can be, as Amanda Gorman demonstrated today with her amazing poem at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. You can check out her performance here.