When will telephony learn simplicity?


Telephony has a long and glorious history. Following the invention of the telegraph in the 1830s, various inventors constructed devices that could convert sound to electrical voltage and back, but it was Alexander Graham Bell who sold the first commercial telephone in 1867. Since then, telephony has come a long way.

The last major step was the switch from old (sometimes analog) systems to VoIP, with which the telephone gave up its technological independence and uses the internet protocol instead.The internet itself has a way shorter history, but it is also the medium that has changed the way people live more than any other communication medium in human history (maybe apart from oral speech).

The internet has seen several evolution steps, from the blinking and flickering websites of the 90s, Netscape, over to Google, blogs, social network, to its current manifestation with mobile devices, apps and augmented reality. And here we are: One the one side the old, respectable grandpa we call “Telephony”, on the other side the agile, hyperactive kid, the “Internet”.

At Evolux, our challenge is to make these two very different characters play together and work hand in hand smoothly. Sure, telephony has evolved massively in the past years. The underlying technology of VoIP has little to nothing in common with that of the “Plain Old Telephone Service”. But on top of the internet infrastructure used here, there are still the old paradigms and rules, the habits that die hard, the laws that have governed the world of telephony for the last decades and that made it successful.

Applications like Asterisk and the newer FreeSWITCH are great and powerful tools, but if you compare them to the web technologies of today, to the Rails, Djangos, and Pyramids, FreeSWITCH and Asterisk are two old bums in borrowed suits at a fancy dinner party. They are gigantic projects, grown overcomplicated over the years. Even FreeSWITCH, which was started to address exactly these problems in Asterisk, suffers from a complicated structure, a (in my opinion) poor documentation and a steep learning curve for newbies. I agree that my comparison is not completely accurate.

FreeSWITCH and Asterisk are definitely backend services that have to deal with things like data-routing and session management, things that lower layers handle for most web frameworks and services. I am not trying to compare the technologies, but how easy it is to use this technology. And here companies like Evolux come into play. We take the dinosaur skeleton in the background and build a body around it. And we make it shiny, we give it bright colors, clearly defined functionality and convert the complicated mechanics of the skeleton into the features you need and like to see.

If you want, we hide the demon behind a mask, tame it and make it look nice. About five years ago, the internet realized that “simplicity” of development was what was needed to reach the next level of evolution. Building something new, realizing own ideas and modifying existing ones has to be as easy as child’s play in order to attract a wide audience.

Today it is easier than ever to create new web apps and services. Telephony still has to walk that path. If we want to reinvent telephony and make it something people have fun playing around with again, have fresh ideas and create awesome new things, we have to make it easy, pretty, and attractive.

Sven é alemão e fez estágio na Evolux. Ele também escreveu sobre sua experiência em Brasil no seu blog.