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What is an "" or "OTT" application or service? How does an OTT telecommunications or media app/service differ from a "regular" application?

The answer depends upon your perspective.

For a regular of the Internet, an "OTT app or service" is something like:

Basically, .

Of course, for an ISP / telecommunication provider, the critical point about an OTT app/service is the part I emphasized - it is NOT a service you are paying them for.

And they are not happy about this.

It's not clear to me when precisely we in the industry started talking about "over-the-top" applications and services, but I first saw OTT mentioned back in 2008 or 2009 when the term was primarily applied to services such as those coming from Netflix or Hulu. At the time, major US service providers such as Comcast and ATT were rolling out their video-on-demand services and were being challenged by these "OTT" providers. Netflix and Hulu provided their service "over-the-top" of your Internet connection, without any interaction whatsoever with your Internet service provider (nor any revenue to that service provider).

Since that time, I've seen "OTT" applied to the zillions of messaging apps that have now sprouted up in the mobile environment to provide an alternative to the costly SMS provided by the traditional telcos. WhatsApp, Apple's iMessage, Blackberry Messenger (BBM), TU Me... and a hundred others that keep popping up on a weekly basis. Some would even lump Twitter and Facebook into this category. (And SMS revenue by telcos are facing a serious decline from the use of these apps. Ovum estimated the decline at $13.9 billon for 2011 .)

I've also seen "OTT" applied to VoIP apps such as Skype (whose network overlay architecture I wrote about previously ). And now we have Apple's Facetime and a hundred startups like Viber, Voxer, Tango, etc.

Recently I saw a document that painted "OTT" even more broadly as a term applying to on the Internet, i.e. basically everyone publishing content in any form.

The key point of all of this is that the OTT apps/services do not come from the traditional telcos or Internet service providers.

The telcos and ISPs are merely providers of the IP connectivity. The OTT apps ride on top of that Internet connection.

The telcos and ISPs are simply big, fat, dumb pipes.

Some of the telcos and ISPs out there are smart enough to see what's going on and are trying to become the biggest, fattest pipe out there and provide the best possible service. Some are launching their own apps/service .

And some of the telcos are so desperate to hold on to their legacy business models that they are trying to get the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to regulate OTT apps and service providers through the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) . They are hoping to use WCIT as a vehicle to re-inject themselves into the revenue stream and somehow start charging "OTT" providers. (But that's a topic for another blog post...)

So when you hear people talking about "OTT apps" or "OTT services," they are typically referring to applications or services that ride on top of your Internet connection - but have no relationship with the of your Internet connection.

OTT apps and services are a major component of the ongoing war between "content providers" and "access providers"... a fundamental tension within the Internet that shows no sign of being resolved anytime soon. But more on that another time... :-)

In the meantime, what we all can do is the use of the term "OTT" from the telcos and instead focus on referring to these apps instead as:

because they are just apps that work on IP networks... whether those are from the legacy telcos or any other service provider.

that is NOT provided directly by your Internet Service Provider (ISP)

In the study of aesthetics, there’s a concept known as the “uncanny valley.” This describes the eerie feeling that arises when objects look human, but not quite (mannequins, dolls, Sophia the Robot etc.) Shudu is notable for being post-uncanny valley, appearing so human that most people, even with a closer look, wouldn’t suspect that she’s CGI.

The attention for Shudu started to snowball when Rihanna’s beauty brand Fenty reposted an image of her wearing the brand’s lipstick. The image (created without Fenty’s involvement and at the suggestion of Cameron’s younger sister), exceeded the average amount of Instagram likes and engagement almost four-fold with some 222,000 likes compared to an average of around 50,000. At the time, it hadn’t been disclosed whether or not Shudu was a real person; her Instagram bio simply repeated the comment left under her photos: “who is she?”

Following the exposure that comes with a co-signfrom Rihanna, Cameron began responding to private messages toclarify that Shudu was an art project.

Of course, posting on social media welcomes a full spectrum of opinions about one’s work, including criticism, too. Some users observed thatthe manufacturing of a black woman’s image by a photographer — a white male nonetheless — takes up the space that could be filled by an IRL model, and any profit from this comes at the detriment of real careers.

“The comments that have been most critical of what I’m doing have been from white women, which was kind of unexpected. I had dark skinned girls and women message me to say that they absolutely love the art that I’m doing,” says Cameron. “This is why I like to do interviews: to show people what’s behind it. This is not trying to take away from anyone but it is trying to add to the standard of beauty that’s being shifted to something much more inclusive.”

[email protected] . . #3dart

A post shared by Shudu Gram (@shudu.gram) on

Is it possible that the existence of Shudu’s Instagram page could be pushing other would-be models out the door ? “I don’t really see Shudu as a money spinner or a business for me,” says Cameron, “It’s more of an expression, and when I’ve had companies approach me, if what they want doesn’t reflect in what I see for her then it’s a no go. You know it doesn’t matter about the money or things like that. Because it’s not why I started Shudu. I started her for me, to express myself.”

Cameron alsopoints out that in his creation of Shudu, he found it challenging to create someone in her image, due to a lack of available software. “Just the same as in many industries, the 3D world is sorely lacking ethnic diversity and black characters and assets are particularly rare,” he says. “There’s a push to shift this, and with the advancement of tech and 3D industries, we can expect a change. But it’s one thing that Shudu is contributing to in her own way. It wasn’t something intentional from the start, but now I’m very interested in helping to create the resources needed for game developers and 3D designers to make more diverse characters”.

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