09 November 2007
It's getting more difficult every day to tell the difference between Voice over IP and traditional phone service. That can be a good thing or it can be a bad thing, depending on how you look at it and what aspects you're comparing.
When VoIP first became available, it was very different from traditional phone service in almost every way. Early implementations of consumer VoIP only supported calls from one computer to another, and both parties had to use the same provider. Making a call was a different experience from talking on the "real" telephone: you "dial" via a software program, talked into a desktop microphone, and heard the other party's voice through your computer speakers.
The payment model was different, too. Many of those early IP-network-only VoIP programs and services were free. But as always, you got what you paid for, and neither call quality nor reliability was very good. Calls got dropped a lot, and the audio was sometimes unintelligible. Still, there was a big "cool factor" involved in being able to talk over your Internet connection at no extra cost, especially on an international basis where traditional long distance rates could be prohibitive.