VOIP Interop. Or, How to Call Me With Your Computer.

One of the problems standing in the way of wider adoption of VOIP (voice-over-IP or, to over-generalize, “telephone calls that use the Internet”) has been “the directory problem.” If you ever tried to use Microsoft’s NetMeeting back in the day you will recall that it was almost impossible to figure you simply how to call someone.

One of the create achievements of systems like iChat and Skype is that they solved this problem, and made it point-and-click easy.

As we glue together our own VOIP experiments and fiddle with systems like Freeworld Dialup and Gizmo, we’re facing “the directory problem” again. Who needs more telephone numbers to remember (and distribute?).

Fortunately there are answers to these problems. And in fact the answers are based on rather long-standing technologies like DNS. Here’s a demonstration of how simple it can be to use open standards like SIP to glue “Internet calling” together with “regular old telephones.”

  • Download Gizmo for your PC, Mac or Linux machine.
  • Install. Register (it’s free).
  • Call the “phone number” sip:peter@rukavina.net.
  • The phone rings in my office.

Here’s a brief screencast that shows this all happening.

If you’re curious, I’ve created a page that explains how it all works.

Never satisfied to leave well enough alone, I’ve set up another SIP URI — sip:formosa@rukavina.net — that, if you call it, will automatically play you the latest episode of our Live From the Formosa Tea House podcast.