Startup To Cisco: Buy Us And We'll Fix Your Skype Problem

Erik Lagerway HookflashErik Lagerway, co-founder, Hookflash

Photo: Hookflash

Tiny startup Hookflash has a proposal for Cisco. It wants to help Cisco smash Skype and is willing to sell itself to Cisco to do it, Hookflash founder Erik Lagerway told Business Insider.Cisco, if you recall, is really worried about Skype and thinks the government should force Microsoft to change Skype so that it works better with Cisco’s expensive room-based videoconferencing systems.

But Lagerway says Cisco is really missing the bigger picture. A new technology is being developed right now that bakes videoconferencing directly into the browser, without a plug-in and very soon everyone, even Skype, will be using it.

The new standard is called WebRTC and it’s backed by Google and Mozilla, maker of Firefox, and, strangely enough, even Cisco, Microsoft and Skype. This week, Google added WebRTC to Chrome and Mozilla promises to include it in Firefox pre-beta builds.

WebRTC is being created by the two big standards bodies that control much of the Internet, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the W3C. Because of that, even Microsoft is onboard, although Microsoft and Google are fighting over some parts of the standard, namely the “codec” technology used to create the voice and video.

Skype likes WebRTC, too, because it would let Skype be used via the browser without a plug in, opening it up to millions of new users. It also would make Skype work with other messaging systems, like Google Talk and Cisco’s videoconferencing systems.

In other words, Cisco doesn’t need to keep whining about Skype’s lack of interoperability because WebRTC will soon take care of that.

Hookflash wants to take that a step farther. Earlier this week it released an open source project that replaces Skype altogether with an open source peer-to-peer videoconferencing alternative based on WebRTC. Hookflash also released tech that lets developers build WebRTC into their Web and mobile apps.

It introduced an iPad app in cooperation with LinkedIn called “Hookflash for iPad” to show off its Skype alternative. It lets you videoconference with LinkedIn contacts. Hookflash intends to make money with a cloud service that hosts WebRTC apps.

Which leads us to Lagerway’s offer to sell his company to Cisco. If Cisco really wants to hurt Skype, it could buy an open source competitor built on the next hot tech, Lagerway argues. And its guaranteed to work with Cisco’s tech because one of Cisco’s tech geniuses, Cisco fellow, Cullen Jennings, is an advisor to Hookflash. Jennings is the chair of the Web RTC IETF working group.

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