28 February 2008

Voice... the last 2.0 frontier ?

Ever since I discorevered Wengo's flash based widget allowing voice & video calling from the Web nearly two years ago, and when I later heard about GrandCentral, it was clear to me that the long awaited reshaping of the communications market was under way! It seems that Ribbit, who claims to be the first Silicon Valley's phone company, may be the first to deliver this vision.

Ribbit is about to release an API to its multi-protocol class 5 softswitch that will allow any developer to easily integrate voice into all kind of applications, with a focus on social networking apps in the first place.

On top of the telco & web features, the ribbit team has crammed into the platform a bunch of cool features such as the speech-to-text transcription, the caller-id 2.0 & the revenue-sharing style licensing.

On the user side, access to the service only requires sms messaging and the ability to activate conditional call forwarding. If this latter is provided free of charge by most US mobile carriers, it is not the case in other countries (notably in Europe) and this is clearly a contentious issue : mobile carriers, through their call charge policy, have the capacity to make third-party telco 2.0 initiatives stick to a niche market (note that the rates applied by Ribbit for moving around the calls have not yet been made public). This is the very reason why Google's plans are to shake up the mobile carrier market in every possible way.

Below is a demo of the amphibian softphone, which makes my forever4035 look like a legacy one! I guess Ribbit will be facing a much stronger competition from Skype, Google and Yahoo! ;)