Voiceweb Foundation Launches Voicecoin ICO to Fund a Voice Internet Based on Blockchain
The Voiceweb Foundation believes the future of voice interaction should be conducted over an open standards-based system similar to how the World Wide Web created an interconnected ecosystem of websites. In the organization’s view, today’s proprietary voice assistant ecosystems such as Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google Assistant would be replaced by an egalitarian solution that maximizes interoperability and minimizes the control of any single operator. The core of this new system is a blockchain that ensures unique identifiers for each “voice website” and transactions, including securing a voice domain registration, will be conducted using new utility tokens called Voicecoin. The Voicecoin initial coin offering (ICO) now enables consumers to purchase tokens on the LaToken exchange.
A Company That Wants to Look Like an Independent Foundation
Voiceweb was founded by George (Jianwen) Zhao which the company says is the original “patent inventor of the core technology powering WeChat.” The company invokes a lot of history in its pitch referencing Tim Berners-Lee and ICANN, but neither appear to have direct involvement with the initiative. FAQs around Voicecoin include the statement:
“The earliest motivation for the Voiceweb project was to find a method of revitalizing the Web in the Internet of Things Era, using Blockchain technology. In the Mobile Era, people are using social platforms more and more, and utilizing the Web less. But these social platforms are centralized and not globally open or interconnected. In this Internet of Things Era, the founders believe that people are more likely to access the Internet via voice. But if a new open standard is not developed, this new Internet access point will be controlled solely by the Internet Giants, which would result in all online services needing to be distributed through a centralized voice platform.
It is not clear whether Voiceweb as the arbiter of the standards and blockchain operator would wield similar clout in the new Voice Web system. A Voicecoin Medium post announcing the ICO’s availability as of December 5th clarified this intent further:
“When the protocols and infrastructure proposed by the VoiceWeb team is rolled out successfully, platforms such as Apple’s SIRI [sic], Amazon’s ECHO [sic], Baidu’s DuerOS, and Google Home may all evolve to a voice browser.”
Not the First to Contemplate a Voice-Oriented ICO
Voiceweb is not the first voice technology company to contemplate an ICO. Snips.ai has an active ICO underway today and has a blockchain model for a utility token. Mycroft has spun off a blockchain concept business called Mykrosystem and is tentatively planning on a 2019 ICO according to a listing on ICOSBull. Currently raising funding through an equity crowdfunding offering, Mycroft is an open-source competitor to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. By contrast, Voiceweb is an alternative to these ecosystems. Voiceweb does appear to recognize the importance of these voice assistant platforms today and states:
“In the initial Voiceweb’s ecology [sic], we will develop voice application plug-ins on Alexa or Google Home, and these voice plugins will resolve various chatbot service brands. As the marketplace continues to validate this model, a voice-based chatbot browser will eventually be introduced. This browser will be the essential software for voice speakers.”
Voicecoin has a big vision and many people have suggested that a web model could succeed in voice. However, the company has a lot of entrenched users to win over that are already committed to these assistants. They will ultimately need to be redirected to the voice web if Voicecoin is to succeed. And, in the interim period, Voicecoin needs acquiescence of the existing voice assistants to allow it to start providing value to users. This appears to be yet another platform that voice app publishers would have to develop for and it wouldn’t enable them to abandon other efforts. It’s not clear that voice app developers have an appetite for this today. The key question for Voicecoin is not whether it can complete a successful ICO, but instead whether it can achieve solution distribution and adoption.