Meet The 2600hz Project, The New Sound of Open Source Telephony

Some of the core developers behind FreePBX — a well-known, open-source phone system — have teamed up and started The 2600hz Project, a commercial entity promoting a collection of open-source telephony applications and libraries. Today, they are releasing blue.box, a reworked version of open source FreePBX. The new venture is co-founded by Darren Schreiber and is also a subsidiary of newly formed VoIP Inc. The 2600hz Project received $250,000 in funding from an unnamed investor.

2600 Hz is the frequency that the phone companies used back in the day and was hacked by those seeking to make free long distance phone calls. In order to do so, one needed a device that generated the 2600 Hz tone, called the blue box. The new venture is an homage to that heritage.

From what I understand, the new company was formed after some disagreements between the FreePBX developers and the original backers of the project. FreePBX is a graphical user interface that sits on top of open-source telephony software such as Asterisk. FreePBX was promoted by Bandwidth.com.

Apparently, disagreements emerged when the forthcoming FreePBX v3 project announced support for FreeSwitch, a competitor to Asterisk. FreePBX was formerly known as Asterisk Management Portal. Frustrated by the pace of development and lack of resources, some of the core developers of FreePBX, especially those working on the new version of the software, decided to break away from Bandwidth.com’s version of FreePBX. In an email, Schreiber outlined:

In 2010, I got together with the core developers of the FreePBX v3 project and we collectively decided we would be better served operating independently. Together, we launched the 2600hz project – a collection of open-source Telephony Applications and Libraries that we expect to grow dramatically over the coming months. The project is designed to be an open-source foundation, focusing specifically on telephony projects. We are even exploring ideas around legal status as a non-profit foundation.

Tomorrow, we will release the first project under the 2600hz umbrella. Our first release will be blue.box – a significantly reworked version of FreePBX v3. For the record, this is now an independent project that has not been endorsed nor sponsored by bandwidth.com. Some of the original code from the FreePBX v3 project is still there, but much of it has been replaced. Bandwidth.com still owns the FreePBX name, but FreePBX v3 never made it out of beta. We expect to incrementally improve (and effectively replace) the entire stack, at which point we will transfer rights of the code to the open-source foundation/organization.

The blue.box is essentially a free, open-source system that works with any SIP-compliant device or service (including desk and mobile phones) and supports a multitude of features, such as auto-configuring of phone services, unlimited free conference calling, and auto-attendants. It’s been released under the Mozilla Public License. “We still hope to utilize, promote and work with Bandwidth.com, as they have one of the largest nationwide telephony networks out there,” Schreiber said.