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.
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