In March of 1876, 134 years ago, Alexander Graham Bell was awarded the master patent on the electric telephone. There have been many advancements since then but in the age of the web, interesting and telephone have not really gone together lately. Interesting and mobile phone maybe -- but not your plain old landline phone. With the wide adoption of VOIP, however all of this is changing. Here is just a sampling of new and innovative telephone stuff out there:
Skype: Skype has been around for what seems like forever (7 years) and has just emerged from four years of ownership by eBay. Here is a formula for success: create free internet telephone company, sell to ebay for $2.6B ($1.9B in cash), go on vacation for a while, buy it back for $400M. Hats off to founders Zennström and Friis for pulling this off and not only is Skype going to live on, but we should expect them to retake the leadership position in the industry.
Google Voice: Still invitation only, and I have not been invited. From what I gather is is pretty cool. One phone number, take it with you anywhere, read your voicemails, view a list of your voicemails, and other features that make your telephone and voicemail as much like email as you can imagine. If you can get over letting Google into another area of your personal data -- then it could be a great service.
Phone.com: All the features you can imagine, conference calls, chat sessions, international, text voicemail, and more. It is not free, but it is cheap.
Ring Revenue: Described with a pretty good tag line: "Track Calls Like Clicks", this inbound call tracking service is innovative and a powerful tool for marketing departments. Call by call reporting has been around in the call center industry for a while, but only a few people do a good job with it. The founders of Ring Revenue came from web conferencing to mobile serivce provider CallWave.
Twilio: Want to turn your web site or web ap into a phone? The Twilio API delivers all of the functionality you need with simple code in HTML. This could be a turning point in the industry where anyone capable of writing a simple line of HTML can now have Click to Call functionality.
Vodburner: Be careful what you say on that conference call -- it could be on You Tube in 5 minutes if the person on the other end is using Vodburner. That is right, you can easily record both the audio and video of a video Skype call with Vodburner. Good for people like me who can't remember what I had for breakfast.
Jajah: Make phone calls on Twitter! Who would have thunk? (in Beta only right now). This service also let's you build a directory of local numbers for your international calls (essentially custom call forwarding to international) which is an interesting twist on long distance billing.
Stay tuned for many new interesting developments in an area some have written off as old and stuffy.