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Ribbit leapfrogs into Web 2.0

Voice 1.0 is so 20th century

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Silicon Valley start-up Ribbit has announced another $10m in funding, and the opening of a beta developers program for developers wanting to create telephony applications using Flash technology, for a "Voice 2.0" experience.

The Ribbit service is based around a soft switch with an open API that can link together the various flavours of VoIP, as well as traditional telephone networks. This is all controlled using Flash APIs published by the company, and is now available for developers to play with.

This combination should enable anyone familiar with Flash to create their own telephony application, such as dropping their voicemail into their Facebook page, or drawing up their perfect telephone interface.

The technology demonstrations include a soft version of the iPhone, complete with screen rotation, as well as a phone interface based on a chalk board. More interesting is the integration with Salesforce.com, which includes transcribing messages into text for automatic filing against contacts.

Once launched commercially next year, the cost of the service will depend on the application deployed. The business model is for developers to create applications and charge a rental, of which Ribbit will take a cut (in addition to any call charges generated).

Companies such as Skype already offer APIs to allow developers to create new applications, but these are limited to one telephony provider and generally require a native application to be installed.

By using Flash Ribbit is hitting all the right Web 2.0 buttons, and its presentation video even argues that browser-based interfaces are inherently easier to use than native ones (something not heard since the last dot-com bubble), as clearly it's impossible to create an unusable interface in Flash.

But underneath the fluff there is potential in better telephony applications, and Ribbit is one platform that could provide them - if such applications can genuinely provide greater functionality to voice calls, rather than just ending up as another way to post messages on a Super Wall. ®

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