History Lesson: Who Invented VoIP?
There are certain technologies that have existed just long enough for us to begin taking them for granted. How about the Internet itself? Even now, many of us still jokingly (or perhaps not so jokingly) assume that Al Gore invented the World Wide Web, when that honor rightfully falls toTim Berners-Lee.
If you’ve made your way onto this site, it’s probably because you have at least a passing interest in Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP. Maybe you’ve discovered its many applications in the home phone and business sectors.
Like the Internet itself, the origins of VoIP are well-known to those who care about it, and likely less familiar to those with only a passing interest. Below we’ll attempt to demystify the history of VoIP, and give credit where it’s due.
The Man Behind the Curtain
If you’re looking for a name to associate with the beginnings of VoIP, look no further than Alon Cohen, an Israeli-born businessman and entrepreneur. Back in 1989, he helped to found VocalTec Inc., and invented the particular type of audio transceiver that would eventually make VoIP possible.
In no uncertain terms, this is the man who helped to radically change the telecommunications industry. Four patents are attributed to Cohen – a rather modest number, when you consider his significant contributions to the industry – and he currently serves as the executive vice president of phone.com.
VocalTec and Beyond
Cohen’s VocalTec Communications Inc. was the original pioneer of VoIP technology; they were the first to offer Internet phone services, and in 1996 VocalTec became one of the very first successful Internet IPOs.
In 2005, Cohen received the VoIP Visionary Award, which, if you ask us, is a bit redundant (or at the very least overdue), considering the fact that he helped to invent it. That same year, he was recognized as one of the top 100 most influential Israelis. He has also represented Israel at the United Nations during negotiations that would go on to ratify global VoIP standards.
VocalTec went on to become a part of MagicJack in 2010. In addition to MagicJack, plenty of other industry titans have risen to prominence since VocalTec’s success in introducing VoIP technology to the world. Thanks in no small part to Cohen’s pioneering spirit and forward thinking, business phone systems powered by VoIP and free long-distance calling are being enjoyed across the world by companies of all shapes and sizes, not to mention the average citizen.
Microsoft’s Skype was one of the first consumer-level VoIP services to make a splash, and Apple’s FaceTime has followed suit, making use of the built-in cameras in Apple’s now-ubiquitous handhelds.
No matter which way you look at it, VoIP has had a dramatic impact on the way we communicate. While mobile communications may always be dominated by cell towers and data plans, home and business phone systems are becoming more and more reliant on IP phone technology. To put it another way, VoIP has put “traditional” phone providers on notice; many of them cling to outdated business models like expensive long-distance calling and spotty reception. It’s safe to say that VoIP represents the future of home and business phone service, and it’s a testament to Cohen’s brilliance that he saw which way the wind was blowing almost 25 years ago.
Photo courtesy of Burns Library, Boston College via Flickr