An update on RTC and VoIP federation in Linux systems

I’ve just published a blog entry looking at the latest milestone in VoIP and RTC federation. Specifically, all the major Linux distrubtions (Debian, Ubuntu and the upcoming Fedora 19 release) now have relatively easy to install SIP proxy with support for federation. The RTC Quick Start guide provides step-by-step instructions to get up and running with these packages on any of those platforms.

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Announcing DruCall, the WebRTC module for Drupal blogs, CMS and e-commerce sites

A few people have questioned whether our session at FOSDEM really answered the question: can we replace Skype in 2013?

While I will stop short of making that commitment here today, I will say one thing: if any technology has the potential to help the free software community to displace Skype, and decentralize real-time communications, it is WebRTC.

With that in mind, I’ve been surveying the state of WebRTC support and found many projects just on the verge of a breakthrough. I’ve tried to give them a little push towards that breakthrough we are all hoping for, in this case, taking the basic SIPml5 WebRTC phone and making it into a convenient Drupal module.

This builds on my previous work to put convenient WebRTC solutions into the hands of the free software community. The module is called DruCall.

DruCall makes it easier than ever to put click-to-call functionality into virtually any Drupal powered web site, whether your run a personal blog or the United States Government

People wishing to deploy DruCall will need a WebRTC (SIP over WebSockets) capable SIP server. Both the major SIP proxies have this capability now in their development versions:

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Building the core of a federated future

One of the most powerful forces in communications technologies is Metcalfe’s Law, which states that the value of a communication network goes up by the square of the number of participants. Any new technology has to work hard to get “critical mass” in its network — but after that, it can grow incredibly fast.

Getting to that critical mass is difficult and mysterious. Lots of great tech never manages to become self-sustaining. Others that seem unlikely go viral.

But clearly, you have to provide value for that first core part of the network that’s disproportionate to the value that later members get. I think there are two main reasons new users join “early networks”:

  1. The networks have the “right” people (for that user)
  2. The technology appeals to the users for ideological reasons

For federated voice, IM, and social networks, there is a cluster of communities that can form an important core to bootstrap the networks. These include organizations involved with:

  • Free and Open Source software
  • open Internet standards
  • Open Content
  • digital human rights

This cluster of communities frequently communicates internally — making federated technologies pragmatically valuable. It also features a higher-than-normal technical ability, meaning that technologies that require more work to set up have a higher chance of succeeding. Finally, most of these groups have ideological alignment with the concepts of federated communications networks.

We’ve put together a chart of organizations in this cluster in order to encourage adoption of technologies. Do They Federate? shows 24 organizations we think could and should support federated communications by installing servers running for their own domains. We’ve chosen three key federated communications technologies – voice, IM, and social – and marked who has their own servers and who doesn’t.

We specifically chose organizations that provide email addresses in their domains to staff or members.  We picked non-commercial organizations for this first round, but we’ll be adding commercial organizations in the future.

What next? We hope to start a conversation in these communities about getting these services rolled out. We hope that the encouragement of members and the work of volunteers can turn more of these blank and red squares into green ones. Most of all, we want the tools we use to reflect the values we endorse.

We’d love to hear about more organizations that should be on this chart, and especially about “wins” for the board. Each square that goes green means an expanded network that becomes more valuable for us all.

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Using Jitsi for free and secure messaging, VoIP and webcam calls

Want a better way to chat, use VoIP or your webcam? In any comparison of genuinely free and secure RTC desktop software, Jitsi now dominates. In particular, the ZRTP encryption is the strongest P2P encryption currently available and is genuinely independent with no possibility of centralised monitoring. For those who want to try it out, it can work with SIP or XMPP accounts from many third provides, or you can set up your own server using this guide from Daniel Mierla (Kamailio project) or a similar guide from Daniel Pocock, how to set up Jitsi with reSIProcate (repro) proxy server

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Free Your Speech

It’s time to take control of how you communicate with your friends, your family, your colleagues, and the world. Whether it’s email, instant messaging, voice and video, or social networking, you have many options for free, open, decentralized, privacy-enhancing communication. This website is dedicated to helping you find and use these technologies, and to strengthening the community of people who build these technologies for everyone to use. Please join us as we work together to make freedom of conversation a reality. (We’re just getting started as of FOSDEM 2013, but join the Free-RTC list to discuss where we go from here!)

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