VOIP over social networks threatens telcos

Today’s announcement that MySpace’s 110 million active users will be able to make free calls using Skype-enabled version of MySpace’s IM client will set the cat amongst the telco pigeons everywhere.

MySpace users will be able to make calls using MySpaceIM without needing to download any additional Skype software or even to sign up for a Skype account. Revenue from premium Skype calls will be split. MySpace claims that MySpaceIM currently has over 25 million installed users. MySpaceIM with Skype will be launched in 20 countries.

This is a very smart move on behalf of Skype-owner eBay. But offering Skype as a B2B service for the first time, it could well monetise the service far more effectively than using it as a feature on eBay auctions ever would. It also puts Skype onto a roadmap of becoming the default “Telco 2.0”, since it remains a proprietary and not open system.

The next phase of this trend will be when Facebook launches a VOIP application. There is already Friendvox from the London-based Techenlightenment, but this is a third party application. Perhaps the smart thing to do now would be to either buy The Gizmo Project – which was the application bandied around recently when Skype had a major outage – or engineer a similar system which uses the non-proprietary SIP protocol. We’ll see.

Making a call over Facebook or MySpace may sound like not that big a deal, but because this is a ‘white-list’ of your friends and contacts, you won’t be called by anyone you don’t know or haven’t pre-approved. That may sound limiting, but it also means no more marketing calls as you sit down to Sunday lunch – something Americans would dearly welcome I gather.