11 Comments

Summary:

Vonage today released an application for Facebook on iPhone and Android that provides free voice calls between Facebook friends over Wi-Fi or a 3G wireless network. With past struggles to stay viable as a VoIP provider, this app might give Vonage a new lease on life.

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Vonage today released a mobile application for Facebook that provides free voice calls between Facebook friends over Wi-Fi or a 3G wireless network. Calling works only if both people have the Vonage app for Facebook on their phone and is supported on both Apple’s iOS4 and Google’s Android platforms. The new application also supports a chat feature and an indicator showing which Facebook friends have installed the application and are therefore reachable for a voice call.

The new application is clever on the part of Vonage, a voice over IP provider that has struggled to stay viable and has attempted to provide voice calling services to smartphones in the past. But instead of going with a standalone application, the company is smartly leveraging the more than 500 million registered Facebook users and building on Facebook’s platform. And Vonage’s efforts aren’t likely to stop here. In a press release issued this morning, Marc Lefar, CEO of Vonage Holdings Corp. stated, “This is just the start. In the future we will expand on this service to include a wide range of integrated voice and messaging services that change the way people communicate.” I wonder if Vonage might be better off hoping for adoption and then an acquisition by Facebook.

Atlhough I haven’t tried the application on my phone yet — support for the iPad is coming soon, says Vonage — I like the idea for a few reasons. Most of my Facebook friends are people that I’d actually talk to, so as a platform, Facebook provides a cloud-based directory of my contacts that I don’t have to manage. Instead, each of my friends manages their own profile information, which is then pushed down automatically to my handset. Even better is the concept of calling people with the Vonage app, not numbers. Most of my friends have multiple phone numbers between work, home and various handsets, so I often don’t know where to reach them. GigaOM guest columnist Daniel Berninger once wrote about the need to eliminate the tyranny of telephone numbers and instead call each other based on our real names and identities. (I covered this topic for GigaOM Pro, as well.) Other mobile VoIP providers should quickly imitate this feature.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Report: Google’s Voice Possibilities

Is Facebook Video Chat the Future of Social Media?

How Google Voice Could Change Communication

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  1. But your Facebook friend has to also have the app already installed on their phone? Seems pointless.

    Also, video shows the Vontage app requiring you enter your Facebook username and password? Epic fail if that is the case, and there’s no excuse for it either Re. Facebook connect and/or Oauth

    1. The login is one-time and standard for applications that connect to FB. The info is stored and there is no need to log in after that.

    2. Actually, it is using Facebook Connect. The login is done on a Facebook login page, and then Facebook asks if you want to grant access to Vonage application. Thus, Vonage does not have access to your facebook credentials.

      1. Thanks Roshan. Good to know.

        …but my “pointless” assessment remains.

        App seems utterly redundant, since I already have the phone numbers of my Facebook friends in my phones address book.

        From what I can tell, the Vonage app doesn’t make any use of that at all, and is being way too “lazy” but requiring my friends install the app too.

        Ref. Google Voice

    3. I can see some good use cases. I have many friends outside the US, and I do not know the phone number of many of them. Even if I did, I wouldn’t call them on the phone, since it is too expensive. I do have Google voice; but a call to Nepal is 19 cents a minute. I normally use Skype, which works well. However, many of my friends are not on Skype, but most are on Facebook.

      I agree that it is limiting, since I can only call friends who have an iPhone or an Android phone. If it worked on a regular computer, or Nokia phones, that would be great.

  2. It would be actually quite cool to make a call through Facebook, but again it would be more interesting from an in app perspective. It could be interesting from a customer service feature…

  3. Roshan Shrestha Wednesday, August 4, 2010

    Since the Android FB app does not support chat, and Vonage apparently does, does this mean I can now chat with my FB friends who have android and have installed this Vonage app?

  4. Jay Jayasuriya Wednesday, August 4, 2010

    Hey guys, need some help. I have an EVO and installed the app. But when I start the app and put in my facebook info it tries to connect but gives me the following error “There was a problem connecting to Facebook Please try again later” I made sure I had the correct information. Anyone else having this issue????

    1. I am having the same problem, did you manage to figure it out?

  5. How does Vonage make money on this? Is Facebook paying them a fee for each download?

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