On Facebook, VoIP Has a Sore Throat


[qi:090] The VoIP community, like so many others, got swept up in the Facebook platform euphoria. Not a day passed without some startup or another unveiling their Facebook application amid much fanfare. Well, the party is over, and it has become clear that VoIP apps have lost their voice on Facebook.

This was first noted by one of my readers on his blog; now Stuart Henshall, Alec Saunders and other VoIP bloggers have joined in pointing out the sorry state of VoIP on Facebook.

“The majority of Facebook users are students — mobile phone users — as well. In fact, 27% of Facebook users are users of Facebook mobile,” writes Saunders.

Given how easy mobile is, he wonders, who is going to take the trouble to fire up a PC and log onto Facebook just to make a call? Let’s extend this argument to all VoIP widget offerings — they don’t offer a vastly improved user experience when compared with the simplicity of the phone. Sure they save pennies per minute on international long distance calls, but even those costs are coming down quite sharply.

Actually the situation for VoIP apps on Facebook is pretty bleak.

We emailed Ryan Nitz, founder and CTO of Deft Labs and maker of AppHound, a Facebook apps analytical tool company, to help us get a better sense of what is going on with VoIP-related Facebook apps.

When Nitz ran queries using the keywords Skype and VoIP, AppHound found that the combined installs for all VoIP applications was 435,481, with 11,615 daily users. That’s about 2.7 percent. (See chart for the full breakdown.)


Talk about a sore throat.



Monster.com, etc to search for resumes on facebook, instead of job-seekers looking for jobs n Monster.com etc

One should be able to post resume on facebook, etc, and then Monster.com etc to get persons resume from facebook, Orkut, etc directly. Instead of person looking at different job sites like Monster.com, jobster.com etc, employers can then search for employee-candidates on facebook, and advertise potential job-matches on facebook account.

From http://people20.blogspot.com/2007/11/monstercom-jobstercom-etc-getting.html


I guess it’s too early to call these applications a big failure. Maybe, the target platforms are not meant for these voip applications. If u want to target platforms like facebook or myspace, we may have to do some due diligence on what communication mode is popular in these communities. Maybe voice communication is more synchronous and users like to have asynchronous ( IM, email, sms etc) way of communicating. Only time will tell who is the winner in this race to become the most popular application for communication within the social networking community. Just because u has a cool voip app built, doesn’t mean consumers are going to use them.
All that said there is always hope in innovation and as Ben Dean said, bunch of guys are always working hard to bring in the next killer applications.

Daniel Berninger

The voice apps (most are not VoIP) on Facebook will succeed or not based on whether they improve the everyday experience of communication. Does anyone believe the communication present represents the ultimate expression of the art? Social networks provide an interesting context to assemble communication tools. Consider the 90mn people in the US signed up for the do not call list. People want control over their communication. Social networks implicitly provide the control and a framework in which to create new communication apps. Six months into the game seems early to call it over.


Students don’t have a fixed phone, they use mobile phones. So pitching fixed voip to students doesn’t make that much sense.

Using voip to call phones is very expensive outside of the US, so there is no reason to use voip.

(yes its cheaper to call fixed phones with voip than with a mobile phone, but as nobody uses fixed phones there is no one to call)

Ben Dean

The value of Facebook for VoIP apps to date has been largely a learning experience – discovering what works and what doesn’t in this new context. Clearly from the stats above, no VoIP app got it “right” out of the gate. Anyone who claims to have done so just needs to look at the stats of the top Facebook apps for proof – the usage dwarfs that of any of the VoIP apps.

Sure there was an opportunity to get an existing app in front of millions of users, but now that the hype has died down, my sense from talking to others is that app developers (VoIP and otherwise) are stepping back, applying the lessons learned, and focusing on applications geared specifically for the social networking context.

I agree with other commenters that apps that are exclusively minute-stealing and click-to-call may never make sense in the Facebook or any web-based social networking context, but there are many other applications for VoIP that will, and the surface is just being scratched.

What is certain is there are a bunch of smart people working hard, being creative, and innovating, even collaborating, in a space where there is tons of room for innovation and the killer apps are out there to be discovered.

That doesn’t sound “bleak” at all – rather I am looking forward to the next wave of apps that result from both the moderate successes and failures of apps to date.


Hobnoblover’s take is quite typical of general consumer sentiment. Unfortunately, where the mass market is concerned, it is the advertising spend of companies like Vonage that drives consumer awareness of VoIP.

It’s no coincidence that Vonage’s core value proposition has always been interpreted as “Cheaper Phone Calls”. Woo-Hoo-WooHooHoo Indeed….

I work in the industry on the business side, and the vast majority of our clients are not even utilizing VoIP on the WAN side because there is no compelling business case for doing so, and that is actually fine. There is more than enough value on the LAN side, in terms of business process integration and gains in productivity if the tools are properly implemented.

I think we should sh*tcan the term “VoIP” and adopt “IP Voice” or something similar. VoIP is typecast and that is a big hurdle to overcome in the short term.

herman manfred

The idea of “phone call” is so antiquated it doesn’t merit discussion anymore.

Instead “communicate” should begin to reign, and VoIP is one part of that. As noted somewhere above, IM, media, email, etc are all part of that “communication”.

All we need is a dynamite handset that wirelessly hooks into our digital communication path and connects as easily as, say, IM and “phone calls” will be relegated to the history books about the nineteenth century where they belong.

VoIP makes economic sense due its ability to use that communication path. We just need a step or two more to make it THE voice communication method.



What you don’t get is that the reason your long distance is so cheap is because of VoIP. A better rephrasing may be “Actually the situation for consumer VoIP is pretty bleak.”

You will use VoIP, you just won’t be conscious that you are doing so. I’m about to deploy VoIP in my business and it will be invisible to my customers, but I will have a much more flexible phone system.


People also forget the huge difference in how phone calls are charged. In the US (and in America in general?) there is no difference in price to call a landline or a mobile phone. In the rest of the world its 10-20 times more expensive to call a mobile phone from a non mobile phone. And in many countries it is much cheaper to call mobile to mobile, then land line (voip) to mobile. Voip is very expensive for normal calling patterns!

Three paths for voip:

  • Skype to Skype calls, or similar voip to voip.

  • Voip with services for companies.

  • Voip over mobile phone networks. But this one will be a battle in each country.

Marc Siry

Like hobnoblover, VoIP puzzles me. I use my computer to communicate to avoid talking on the phone- it’s easier to be asynchronous and efficient via emails, IMs, board/blog posts, etc. I save the phone for the precious moments when voice really matters- and at that point I want to be kicking back on the couch or leaning back in my office chair, not wired up to a laptop fiddling with software.

If I did more international calling, the economics would be more alluring, but again… I usually default to asynchronous communication due to the time differences involved.

And forget using Facebook to connect- there’s enough noise on that site- I wouldn’t have the mental bandwidth to separate the sincere communication from the SuperPokes. Then again, I’m ancient by FB standards, the SocNet equivalent of the curmudgeon at the bar reminiscing about the Brooklyn Dodgers…

Markus Goebel's Tech News Comments

VoIP is just great.

It let’s me make free phone calls on my normal phone and my friends from all over the world can call me for the price of a local call – or for free. That’s especially great for my Peruvian buddies.

Where else do I get that?

Also I could dump my fixed line, which saves me even more money.

Ben Lilienthal

I disagree in part with where this is going.

Your assumption is that VoIP apps. are just commodity replacements for existing PSTN services. What if the VoIP app is better and delivers a more compelling user experience?

Facebook may or may not be the platform to capture the value of the VoIP apps.


Hey Mr. Malik!

I’d actually rephrase this statement, “Actually the situation for VoIP apps on Facebook is pretty bleak” and say, “Actually the situation for VoIP is pretty bleak.”

We have to make some long distance calls each month, and the price is so cheap, there’s really no need to do VoIP stuff, if you get my drift.

Also, Facebook, as you said, have more young people, and so, why not just use cell phone to get in touch with friends? Or even better, just leave a comment or PM using any social network or just e-mail…


Actually most apps on facebook are bleak, except for the vampire biting, movie quizs and stupid quotes…


The only killer application for VoIP is in a integrated offering with Hosted CRM. That is the future of VoIP. There is no other business model that makes sense.
Maybe a flavor of VoIP via WIMAX/Dual Mode has a shot outside accessing a computer.

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