Ribbit Challenges Telco Model With Web Platform

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Offering to sell services to consumers early next year, Ribbit is also working with more than 600 outside developers who are creating Web-based voice applications that can be used directly in consumer and business markets.

"The world doesn't need another phone company," said Ted Griggs, co-founder and CEO at Ribbit, in a statement. "What it needs is new kind of phone company, one that liberates voice from its current confines -- devices, plans and business models -- and more readily integrates into the workflow of our professional and personal lives."

Ribbit relies on an open platform, a carrier grade switch and an open API (application programming interface) that enables developers to build applications and integrate them into Web sites, communities and applications, the company said. Ribbit teamed with Salesforce.com to build an application that can be used with Salesforce's CRM platform, where workers use voicemail applications alongside the rest of customer information.

The integration of voice communications into any type of Web applications can lead to a wealth of new business uses. "More and more business services are becoming involved in the Internet," said Adam Gross, Salesforce's vice president for developer markets. "Ribbit is bringing more business class services on the Internet, more than just phone services, but as voice, email, and searchable voice mail, along with the ability to have it all as flexible as other business services. We think that developers should be able to decide how they would like to take advantage of telephony and create applications to use in new contexts."

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About 30 companies are testing the service, which will cost $25 a month per person and be available to Salesforce.com users in the first quarter, Reuters reported. Ribbit did not disclose financial terms of its agreement with Salesforce.com.

Ribbit's Web-based model avoids the carriers. "One of the facts of the so-called IP revolution is that there has not been a wealth of applications created for users," said Will Stofega, research manager at IDC. "For the carriers, it's been about transport and cost reduction. Carriers have not been that forthright about rolling out applications. What Ribbit is doing is creating a platform so that they can deploy their own applications, not just applications directed by the carriers."

Ribbit's platform differs from classic VoIP or unified communications platforms sold by Cisco, Microsoft and others, Stofega added. "Ribbit leads to new types of applications," he said. "It implies you can change the nature of voice with new applications and hook them to other applications."

Eric Berridge, co-founder and principal of New York-based Bluewolf, a top partner of Salesforce.com, said the SaaS benefit of Ribbit is apparent. Voice applications can be shared by workers over the Internet, with a potential for significant value to businesses, he said. "This is important, especially for call centers emails and for Website email."

Ribbit raised $13 million funding from investors including Alsop-Louie Partners, Allegis Capital and KPG Ventures, Reuters reported.