By Eric Auchard
Jangl Inc., one of a new class of Web-telephone calling companies, is
introducing a way to call over the Internet that bypasses traditional
phone networks and uses e-mail to provide privacy from unknown
The service, available on Wednesday, allows users to place calls as
well as to send text messages or send or receive voicemail -- all via
the Internet, rather than voice networks.
It helps consumers place long-distance calls, globally, to anyone with
an e-mail address and a phone, for about the cost of a dime.
Jangl, now available in 31 countries in Europe, North America and Hong
Kong, is a novel system tied to e-mail addresses, Web links and
virtual voicemail that conceals the complexity of remembering lots of
different phone numbers.
Communicating long-distance becomes a matter of looking up a friend or
associate's name and clicking on it. Behind the scenes, the Jangl
system goes to work, routing the call over the Internet to any phone
you specify, whether the caller on the other end of the line has used
Jangl or not.
"We offer something no one else can offer, which is unconditional
privacy," Michael Cerda, Jangl's co-founder and its chief executive,
said in an interview. "If I have privacy, I am now willing to give all
these other services a try."
The past year has seen the rise of Web-calling start-ups from Jajah to
Jangl to Jaxtr to Grand Central -- all inspired by the success of
Skype, which so far has wooed 200 million users for free or low-cost
calls between computers and phones.
Newer rivals to Skype are seeking to improve on ideas from decade-old
dial-around services where callers use complicated phone numbers to
bypass long-distance charges. They are using the Web to add
sophisticated new features.
Jangl's latest service is targeted at the social networking generation
-- younger Web users who are comfortable forging relationships online
and for whom phone calls are often secondary to text messages, instant
messaging or e-mail.
The advantage Jangl offers over other Web-calling alternatives is that
calling numbers remain private. Callers who you don't know go straight
to voicemail on Jangl's site. Callers you no longer wish to hear from
are easily blocked.
For users of social networks like MySpace or Facebook, who are often
stereotyped as being shamelessly unconcerned about their privacy, the
Jangl service gives them control over who calls them -- similar to how
instant message systems like AIM, Yahoo or MSN allow users to keep in
close touch with buddies, but help them hide from or block unwelcome
"Your phone number is also your identity. You don't want to have to
give it out to just anyone on the Web," Forrester analyst Charlene Li
said. "Jangl gives you a unique phone number for every single
relationship. That gives users control over who can and cannot reach
Calls are free for the first month the service is in
operation. Details can be found at http://www.jangl.com/ .
Jangl launched a basic Web-based version of its service in November
2006. It has distribution deals with social network http://Tagged.com and
TypePad, the software that powers many blogs.
Jangl also powers the calling service on dating site http://Match.com ,
allowing members to call each other without sharing their numbers. So
far it has signed up 500,000 users through its partnerships and direct
sign-ups, officials said.
"We have created here a model that welcomes people very quickly into
our service," Jangl's other co-founder Ben Dean said. "What is
beautiful is how someone who may never have heard of Jangl can become
a user in minutes."
The Pleasanton, California-based company has 18 employees. Backers
include Cardinal Venture Capital, Labrador Ventures and Storm
Ventures, which together have invested $9 million.
Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.
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