In the history of Skype, the voice technologies were already available, but not configured in a way that made it easy for the average person to use.
Jonathan Christensen of Skype speaks about the development of IP communications over the past 10 years. Christensen is general manager of audio and video at Skype.
The pioneers of VoIP developed the basic technology between 1996 and 2001. The first ever usable VoIP technology that people remember was the VoltaTec VoIP phone. Following that, companies that established gateways across end-points entered the market. They were followed by carriers that established gateways and POPs and connected them to the PSTN networks. The two important use cases that drove the VoIP market were — PC-to-PC ham radio users such as Jeff Pulver, and tandem trunking, or two-staged dialing.
Cost saving potentials and the regulatory framework of VoIP, have changed the telecom industry profoundly. New players have entered the market and influenced prices pushing them down and as a result, per the vision of Jeff Pulver, commoditizing voice.
In summer 2003 Skype entered the market. This was really the beginning of mass market VoIP client usage. Skype combines VoIP with IM, video and visual sharing. It is simple and reliable to use and build on cost efficient P2P technology. The growth of the Skype user base has been phenomenal. However, the VoIP industry reacted negatively to Skype.
Skype clients for mobile devices are the most important next step. However, market incumbents will probably try to block this new market entrance with network discrimination of applications. The future will remain thrilling.