A new website called vox.io enters the VoIP game, with Internet calls made directly through your browser. No installation is necessary, and if you’ve registered on the site, you can drop anyone a simple URL that they click and call you at your own (very modest) expense.
The five-person, six-month-old, Slovenian startup represents “the first step of the vision we have of telephony,” vox.io’s founder Tomaž Štolfa tells Fast Company. VoIP has seen few real innovations in the last few years, he says, adding, “We think time to change this field a little bit.”
Štolfa is quick to say that he doesn’t presume to take on Skype. But there are situations in which Skype isn’t so useful. “We think there’s a lot of space for casual telephony–short, quick conversations on web, where you don’t have to download and configure anything.”
He and I spoke, fittingly, using vox.io. It was a tad glitchy at first, since vox.io hasn’t yet publicly launched, but the stumbling points actually gave me the chance to sample two different ways to make phone calls. First, since I had trouble configuring my microphone and camera through my laptop (it’s a problem that sometimes happens on Firefox running on a Mac; they’re working on it), I instead clicked a drop-down menu that said “quick call.” Vox.io gave me a URL that I could copy and paste; I sent it in an email to Štolfa, and suddenly my iPhone–whose number I had just given the site–was ringing.
“I hope you realize you’re paying for this,” he said. The quick-call URL option configures a “web collect call,” at very low rates–about a cent a minute in the U.S., said Štolfa. In situations where you want people to be able to reach you quickly and easily, without necessarily wanting to publish your actual phone number, it comes in handy. In the future, people might list it on their LinkedIn profiles, for instance.
We switched over to the browser, to avoid wasting any more of my pennies. And though I again encountered a glitch, the design of the site was so pleasing that I hardly minded. After a moment, Štolfa reached me, and we carried on an uninterrupted 15-minute conversation to rival the clarity and stability of any Skype chat I’ve had in a while.
“If you want to use a buzzword, it’s all ‘cloud-based,'” says Štolfa. “Everything lives in the cloud.” Vox.io imports your contacts, if you give permission, from Google Contacts or Facebook. Pricing is competitive with Skype, cheaper in some regions, more expensive in others; and Štolfa says those prices are only expected to go down. You can pay with PayPal. As with Skype, web-to-web calls are free; calling a phone (as I found out) costs money. Vox.io has plans to roll out a version for mobile later in the year.
If you want to try out vox.io now, you can use this URL — http://www.vox.io/r/H5i5iN — just be cautioned that the site hasn’t officially launched, and is still ironing out some kinks (if you are on a Mac with Firefox and stumble in part of the registration process, try hitting command-plus or command-minus to resize the window).
The company is based out of Ljubjana, the capital of Slovenia, and has been funded by two Slovene angel investors.
[Inset image: Štolfa]