Google Voice Welcomes One And All

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Google Voice is no longer the elitist, invite only service of yesteryear. No longer will folks clamor for an invitation to make cheap and even free voice calls.

Google today said it's Web-based telephony platform is now open to everyone. The move comes more than a year after Google launched an early preview of the Google Voice service, which gives users a single number to reach all of their phones, which rings a user's home, office and cell phone all from one number; an e-mail-like interface for voicemail; free calls and text messages to the U.S. and Canada, and cheap international calls.

"Today, after lots of testing and tweaking, we're excited to open up Google Voice to the public, no invitation required," Google Voice product managers Craig Walker and Vincent Paquet wrote in a blog post announcing Google Voice's general availability.

Since launching Google Voice as an invite only service last March, Google has added a host of new features and functions, including a mobile Web application that enables Google Voice on smartphones, an integrated voicemail player in Gmail inboxes and the ability to use Google Voice with an existing phone number. Google said more than a million people are currently using Google voice and Google has taken to heart some user suggestions like SMS to e-mail and a Google Chrome extension.

"We're proud of the progress we've made with Google Voice over the past few years, and we're still just scratching the surface of what's possible when you combine your regular phone service with the latest Web technology," the pair of product managers wrote.

Google is quick to point out that Google Voice sign-ups are currently only open to users in the U.S.

Google laid the foundation for its Google Voice service with the 2007 acquisition of GrandCentral, a telephony service company. Following the GrandCentral acquisition Google stopped accepting new GrandCentral sign-ups. Then in November 2009, Google acquired Gizmo5, a developer of VoIP software for mobile phones and computers, that further fueled its Google Voice offerings.

Google Voice also hasn't been without controversy. Last year Apple and Google butted heads over Google Voice when Apple refused to allow a Google Voice application for the iPhone, claiming that it cannibalized existing iPhone functionality. Google got around Apple's block by releasing a browser-based version of the service.

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