FriendCaller Shows There Is Voice Beyond Skype


FriendCaller, a browser-based click-to-call voice calling service developed by the Dortmund, Germany-based startup C2Call, is once again showing that despite Skype’s monstrous market share, the game isn’t over just yet. The company is adding over 15,000 new users every day. In past three months, it’s added a million new subscribers for a total of 1.4 million to date. So far, these folks are making about 250,000 calls a day.

FriendCaller is a simple and barebones free phone service, and in that lies its beauty. In order to make phone calls, you don’t need any special software: A 750-kilobyte, Java-based (s orcl) soft client downloads and loads up inside a web browser. You can sign in using Facebook, but it’s not necessary. FriendCaller gives you a special link (CallMe links) to share via social networks, email and instant message. Your friends can click and call you, and they don’t need to register with the service.  In addition, the company has special FriendCaller apps for the iPad, iPhone, iPod touch (s AAPL), Android (s GOOG) and Facebook.

If you wish to make phone calls to external phones outside the C2Call’s footprint, you need to sign-up for an account and pay for the calls; from the U.S., it costs about 2 cents a minute to 35 different countries. From April 2010 to early August 2010, the two-year-old C2Call had generated $2 million in revenues, showing signs that it has a business model, as long it keeps adding people and encourages them to keep talking.

CEO Martin Feuerhahn and CTO Michael Knecht started C2Call in 2008. The service is based on internally developed technology and is hosted entirely on Amazon’s (s AMZN) cloud. It scales on an as-needed basis. FriendCaller’s early success has helped the company raise $2 million in Series A funding from original Skype investor Bill Draper of Draper Investment Company, High-Tech Gründerfonds and Klaus Wecken, co-founder of KHK Software.

Try this one out — it might pleasantly surprise you!

Updated: As per your requests, here are some more technical details from folks at C2Call:

Is the Java client open source?

No, the Java client is our own proprietary development, but we are using open standard protocols like SIP/SDP/RTP to establish a connection between the clients.

Is the protocol for phone calls open or closed? What is the protocol?

[It’s] an open protocol SIP (Session Instantiation Protocol). We can connect to our own service, but we also have a client for third-party SIP providers. Very soon, we will also open up our network for 3rd party SIP devices like SIP soft phones or SIP-enabled mobile devices (e.g. Nokia mobile phones, with built-in SIP client)

How does the service work? Is it based on peer-to-peer topology?

It establishes a platform-independent, peer-to-peer connection through any Java-enabled Internet browser. We host a SIP-compliant backend infrastructure with SIP proxy, media relay, presences service, etc. However, the actual audio connection on VoIP calls will be peer-to-peer whenever possible, which sometimes depends on the firewall/NAT. As fall back, we can always use the media relay, hosted in our back-end system.

What codec do you use?
We use iLBC, Speex, uLaw, aLaw, GSM codecs



I’m definitely not new to this space and this statement:

“From April 2010 to early August 2010, the two-year-old C2Call had generated $2 million in revenues”

sounds like coming from another world… Any idea where revenues come from?

Om Malik


From what I understand, most of their money is coming from calls being made to off-network phones such as the cellphones and land lines. I guess people are paying for the minutes, as they do on other services.


Well, that’s my guess as well. But, if true, selling at 0.02 cents per minute on average, it would be 100M minutes… In general this look a bit too much.


Luca, don’t forget this is revenue, not profit. It isn’t too hard to sell lots of international minutes if you are selling them at below cost. They may be building market by giving stuff away – that what venture backed companies tend to do.


Om, thanks for posting this article and alerting people to FriendCaller. Do you happen to know how it works under the hood? For example, is the Java client open source? Is the protocol open or closed? Is it based on peer-to-peer topology or do phone calls route through a nexus like Google Voice? Also, how is the sound quality? One of the things Skype has done well is that they got the audio codec down quite nicely. I wonder how FriendCaller’s audio codecs compare?


It is great to see someone else doing web-based voice, I’ve been saying for ages that Java is a much better vehicle for this than Flash, especially because of the codec issue. I don’t know what codecs friendcaller support, but we at have g722 for wideband, gsm
for narrowband and we are trialing skype’s SiLK which is sounding pretty good.

Om Malik


As per your request, I added some more details on the stuff these guys are doing and will be adding more information as I find it.

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