Blog Post

Flash In The VoIP Pan

Adobe Systems, the San Jose, California-based software giant, has been the real catalyst for the ongoing online video boom, thanks to the near ubiquitous Flash software that plays back everything from stupid pet tricks to the amazing theatrics of LonelyGirl15. YouTube and hundreds of online video sites are using the Flash software to build businesses, some valued at over $1.5 billion. (Adobe acquired Macromedia, maker of Flash technologies in April 2005.)

And now Adobe Systems wants to replicate its success in video space in the Voice over the Internet (VoIP) arena, making it easy to embed voice into web applications. GigaOM has learnt of a secret start-up project currently being incubated by the $1.9 billion in annual sales software giant. Some members of this startup come from the Macromedia Breeze (now called Acrobat Connect Professional) conferencing group. (Breeze is a Flash based web-conferencing system, much like WebEx.) Though less than a year old, the start-up has started to attract some serious VoIP talent.

Sources say, Dr. Henry Sinnreich, generally known as “The Godfather” of SIP (the Session Initiation Protocol) is helping the team, though we have no details about his role within the project. He was most recently the chief technology officer of Jeff Pulver’s VoIP greenhouse,, and prior to that worked for MCI.

The Adobe start-up team faces quite a few challenges. For instance, it would have to support multiple VoIP protocols, and it will also have to figure out how to keep the overall size of the Flash client size small. Sources say that touching Flash Player is like messing with God inside Adobe, and the start-up team needs to figure out how to embed a SIP stack inside the player without making it bloated.

The charter for the start-up is to enhance “Flash” and add support for various voice-over-IP protocols including SIP. They have to come up with ways to make Flash-based-voice work with some of the commonly used signaling systems. These are huge challenges, but if they can overcome all these issues, they could be onto something big. For starters, they could enable web based calling, and prevent the technical hell that comes with many soft phones of today.

If they can make the technology work with the Mobile version of Flash, then the Internet-enabled smart phones can be used to initiate and terminate calls via the mobile browser or special Flash-lite based apps. But these are the most obvious use-case scenarios. Flash Games with VoIP could be another use case scenario. It could be the first step in giving web developers (Flash experts, at least) ability to add voice to whatever mash-ups they can dream off. SIP, XMPP, Jabber and Flash – put them in the blender and you could see some magic.

The gulf between the voice geeks and web developers is one of the biggest challenges facing the Voice 2.0. The vibrancy of Flash developer community, and open source projects such as Asterisk could become a new font of “Voice 2.0” innovation.

The possibilities of Flash with VoIP built in can be seen in a new web-based app called Pronto, which has integrated VoIP, messaging, email, calendaring, and contact management. Communigate has just launched this service. It is not the first VoIP application to leverage Flash. Many of you might remember Gtalkr, a Flash-based Google Talk client, handiwork of Carr brothers that was acquired by Google last year before it got to show us its true voice potential.

41 Responses to “Flash In The VoIP Pan”

  1. Hi all

    I am trying to make a device/platform independent SIP/IAX soft phone for mobiles with Flash Lite. If someone has any idea of how to make it please contribute with me. I wanna use Asterisk server and RED5 server and Flash Lite. Please mail me to [email protected] if anybody is interested or you can just give me advice. You are most welcome.

    Thank you.

  2. great news. but some worries too.

    I think its a great initiative. but do we have to use a close server like flash media server for it. or we can connect any sip server like asterix.

    if we got the second one. surely the flash silverlight war is over.

  3. great news. but some worries too.

    I think its a great initiative. but do we have to use a close server like flash media server for it. or we can connect any sip server like asterix.

    if we got the second one. surely the flash silverlight war is over.

  4. Sorry Rick, seems I can’t post URL’s here without them getting obfuscated with italics.

    You can find the interview on busta’s own homepage if you click on the “press” link.



  5. Hi Rick (sorry for the inline conversation Om!) – I’m not from busta, I just ran a story on them when I heard about the product. The press release was very low key, but the guy behind it is Nick Ogden, same guy who started World Pay and he’s sunk $5m into the network, so it needs an eye kept on it. I interviewed Nick about Busta last week:-


  6. Dean, the Busta features and functionality look very impressive. I don’t remember the press release anywhere. You’re definitely on top of the voip world with your browser plug-in. This warrants some press and news from bloggers. Om, check this Busta out and get the inside on it. Dean how is your call quality over IP? Got GIPS?


  7. Voip has barely hit 2.0 yet, as nobody has come up with a browser plug-in or Ajax-enabled website to allow a user make internet calls without a client application on the PC. Does anyone know of any browser plug-in today?

    Surely Google is working on this. Or some developer who wants to shine.

  8. Actually, NellyMoser could very well still be retained for streaming capabilities. That’s a big part of the problem: keeping all the capabilities of Flash and adding new ones. Streaming plus real-time capabilities = large overhead. Can Adobe keep Flash small and keep all functionality?

  9. Flash is currently a streamed audio, so you can rest assured Adobe won’t be using NellyMoser for Voip. Rather they will go with a real-time Voip codec from GIPS. iLBC is royalty-free. Higher performing sound carries a royalty of some sort, all though I’m sure it would be very favorable for Adobe.

  10. If only Adobe could run away from the NellyMoser codec which powers audio capabilities in Flash it could leverage far more initiative in the VOIP way.
    Such a shame that one must pay 8000 euros just to have the right to use the codec :(

  11. The tubes will be hurting.

    “Om broke the news about Adobe’s secret VoIP start-up project. I knew about Adobe’s top-secret VoIP plans since June of this year.”

    Great blog entry on the topic, Keating.

  12. Good Analysis. I was quite intrigued to learn that Dr Sinnreich was now at Adobe and could not tie the connection properly between SIP and Adobe. When one thinks of Adobe – pdf is what comes to mind first rather than Flash. The value of SIP goes beyond XMPP, Jabber and Gtalk because this will be the future wireless protocol (IMS). So that extends the Adobe-Flash story to mobile handsets as well.

  13. ContactAtOnce! is another application that leverages Flash for VoIP. It enables online publishers to better connect site visitors with advertisers. With ContactAtOnce! both presence and web-based communiciation options can be enabled within ads and listings. Because the application is purpose-built for this, certain softphone features such as dialing are unnecessary and therefore Flash is working just great as-is. Flash offers huge advantages over Skype or other alternatives that require the site visitor to have a bulky client installed. In the advertising context, reach is very important and many more site visitors will have flash than any one VoIP client.