There were more advances than true innovations in the VoIP world in 2009. That's because some of the most important developments had more to do with commercial and political maneuvers than with technical creativity. Still, such maneuvers often helped spread the benefits of VoIP as much as did technical innovation. And collectively, the advances brought some already-evident trends into clearer focus. A key such trend is the increasing integration of voice with other applications and services. Another is the intensifying interest in HD voice. A third is the growing interconnection of VoIP services, in part in response to the possibilities that end-to-end HD voice offers. With such trends as background, here, in no particular order, are our top 25 VoIP advances of 2009.
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From the start, TokBox had real possibilities as a communication tool for small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. The free service offered users the ability to make video calls to one another using just a browser, Web cam and perhaps headset (to decrease echo). Initially, though, the San Francisco startup seemed more interested in appealing to consumer than business users. Now TokBox has moved to exploit its business potential. A newly announced tie-up combines its video conferencing service with the equally easy-to-use online document-sharing service of EtherPad.
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When it comes to real-time Internet communication, quality is always an issue. Internet connections are so inconsistent they can turn talk into gibberish. It takes sophisticated technology to make Internet conversations sound consistently good. The challenges are even greater with Internet video calling. The quality of both images and sound has to be good, and the two must also be in sync. That's why companies that can afford it pay lots of money for custom video equipment connected over private IP links.
Codecs are key to making Internet voice and video work. These pieces of software, embedded in physical phones or Internet calling applications, process the audio and video for delivery over IP connections. Among other things, codecs adjust for different levels of Internet bandwidth between callers, and compensate for delay, inconsistent delivery and loss of packets carrying the voice or video streams.
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