Blog Post

Cat Got Adobe's VoIP?

Updated with more details: Adobe Systems has become the underpinning of the online video revolution. But when it comes to melding voice and web applications, they seem to be falling behind, despite having grand ambitions and a vision to match.

I first wrote about Adobe’s (ADBE) VoIP/voice plans back in September of 2006 . It has been eerily quiet on that front since then. This September, Adobe talked about a secret project called Pacifica, which uses SIP and currently enables point-to-point communications, but it is far from being deemed complete.

Updated: Our sources indicate that Adobe’s VoIP efforts have some internal challenges. For instance, the whole project is dragging because the company is trying to figure out how to monetize its efforts and get people to user their server-side offering as a backend. Adobe doesn’t want a repeat of online video, where YouTube got the upside of Flash video. Nevertheless, our sources indicate that the Adobe will soon have an update that would have SIP P2P enabled functionality.

And as Adobe plods its way forward, suddenly there’s a whole slew of companies already building VoIP applications, including soft clients, that use SIP for voice calling and Flash to interface with the end user. There is a lot of talk about Ribbit and Tring Me, for example; we’ve also heard about Pudding Media’s VoIP client for Meebo, Flashphone, and of course Jeff Pulver’s reboot of Free World Dialup, now called FWD International.

The problem is that most of these companies are using their own workarounds to make voice connections over SIP. In a typical Flash client, voice is encoded in the g711 codec, carried to proprietary servers that connect, in turn, to SIP servers. As these startups start to gain traction, their workarounds will sooner or later begin to obviate the need for a Flash Voice Server.

My good friend Aswath says that Flash-Voice is going to be big in 2008, and that “we are set to see lots of VoIP clients based on Flash that uses UDP for media transfer.” If Adobe wants to play a role in the web-voice business, it’d better hurry up.

11 Responses to “Cat Got Adobe's VoIP?”

  1. To use VoIP in new version of flash player with all functionality (like making connections to SIP proxies and gateways) you probably will need to buy their server solution (like FMS). But P2P will be available for everyone with backend support of Adobe servers for NAT traversal for example…

  2. funkin wagnel

    For Adobe to believe they could have done anything to preempt YouTube from monetizing flash is just plain idiotic. No wonder Chizen resigned — with the Adobe business development executives merrily dreaming away in the executive suite.

  3. The issue isn’t that the Flash platform can’t create SIP signaling (this would be easy, it’s an XHTML based language), the issue is it has restrictions in creating any audio, other than the Adobe audio standard. The “workarounds” these 3rd party companies are doing essentially send the audio to a Flash Media Server (or compatible), which then decodes the audio, and re-encodes it to a standard VoIP audio codec. Adobe won’t be unlocking this one, and I’m sure the update the provide for the Flash player will lock it in so you can only send G.711/G.729a/G.723 to their servers.

  4. “YouTube got the upside of Flash video”? They lose millions every year and nobody makes much money off online video. It would be monumentally stupid of Adobe to start locking down their products for better monetization when nobody else is making money off those technologies either.

  5. knowsadobe

    The infighting between former Macromedia and Adobe is also the problem. The teams hate each other. You will be seeing more examples of adobe missing the boat.

  6. @Update: What backend? What server-side? Once Flash has speech engine (need wideband, preferably Speex; G711 is BW hog and poor quality) and UDP transport capability, I will be able to connect the two end-points without any further assistance from any backend from Adobe. Of course, I do not have a solution for their monetization problem. They decided to give away intelligent ends; now they can not try to insert a Middle. (

  7. Don’t think that Adobe really wants to build a VoIP app. Who has ever made real big money out of voip? It’s a cent game.

    I think Adobe is more interested in enabling the platform, because that’s what they now are: a platform company.