Should you watch Yahoo's rumblings in the Voice over IP (VoIP) market with suspicion? Yahoo, the web's ex (before Google), ex (before Skype) darling has apparently beefed up its Instant Messenger software because, according to one commentator, it was frustrated with the kind of attention that Skype was capturing with its VoIP offerings.
A large chunk of the VoIP sector is taking a dangerous turn as a significant number of players, including three of the biggest, are beating their chests like King Kong to show who's the largest. Before Yahoo’s latest move, Microsoft had already bought two VoIP companies, whilst eBay has snatched the largest of them all, Skype.
We've seen and been here before with companies offering something essentially for free, and then trying to build a viable economic model out of it. All this will remind us of the pre-Internet bubble era of 1999/2000.
The long term effect on telecommunications sector, however, could be devastating as the content providers (like Yahoo) take over and squeeze out the builders (like BT).
Attentive watchers will have noticed that Google has been uncharacteristically quiet. The search engine giant is playing with Google Talk, but is not making it available as a fully fledged service paid-for service. And that is the secret probably. Google doesn't want us to pay anything, ever. Instead, it will be the advertisers, not end users role to subsidise what Google is offering.