Voice Over IP (VOIP) transmits voice calls over the internet, allowing people to speak to one another.
Invented in 1995, VOIP came about after countless seemingly more complex inventions including web-based video. Interestingly, the likely reason for the late invention date is incentives. Businesses believed that the internet would work well for broadcasting, displacing other technologies (they were right). Conversely, phone companies were not enthusiastic about a low-cost calling method beyond their control.
Israeli Alon Cohen recognized the ability to split telephone calls into the packets that flow through the internet. Subsequently, he formed a company, VocalTec Communications Inc., in 1989 and patented VoIP in 1995.
VoIP adoption was initially slow. Early adopters required special software and the sound quality was poor. However, by 2000, almost 25 percent of phone calls used VoIP as telecom providers adopted the technology.
Skype, which uses peer-to-peer VoIP, launched in 2003.
Today, virtually all phone calls use VoIP though most users do not realize the technology is powering their phone calls.
Cohen did well, with a successful 2006 IPO, but the bulk of economic benefit eventually flows to others. Interestingly, Cohen’s main business became working as an expert witness in VoIP patent trials.
Like countless other innovators on innowiki, Cohen studied under the legendary Ivan Sutherland.