Viber – I’m Late to the Party

ViberMany of us know the feeling of being the geek in the family.  Tech support … what should I buy … oh – give us a look at your phone!

And sometimes the show is on the other foot, like this weekend when my sister-in-law asked: “have you tried Viber?”

She’s an IT professional, so I wasn’t surprised to be taking tech tips from her.  But what did surprise me was when installed it and discovered how many of my friends, techy and non-techy alike, were already using it!  I felt like I had arrived late to a party and I hadn’t been missed!

Viber is a VOIP app for iOS and Android.  Unlike Skype, it doesn’t require you to create an ID and password.  It uses your phone number as ID and sends you an authentication code via SMS. And then, since everyone’s Viber ID is the same as their phone number, it can read your phone book like a native.  Browse your contact list in the Viber app and you quickly see who you can and can’t connect with using Viber.

And when you join, they get notified.  Which prompted a Viber text message from another friend: “Conn, I’m surprised it took you this long!”

In using phone numbers rather than asking you to create yet another username and account, Viber is not just making it easy for the user.  They are also building an enormous social graph of “who knows who”.  It’s not surprising that Facebook wants you to upload your phonebook too.  It has also sparked concerns about privacy, although Viber have been quick to point out that they only take names and numbers from phone address books, not the wealth of other personal information that is there such as email addresses, etc.  Still, how much of that could be interpolated, once you have a phone number?

The other thing that Viber does so effectively is disrupt the phone companies business.  It’s fine over WiFi, and it works with the package I have with O2 Ireland, but Vodafone customers appear to have had some difficulties, with some suggestions that customers need to purchase a VOIP Add-on package in order to use Viber and Skype.  It also appears that VOIP may be available with certain kinds of contracts, but restricted with others, such as pre-pay.

 

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