With Voxeo Labs' launch of the Phono software toolkit last weekend that lets you turn any browser into a phone or IM client, one of the more interesting sample applications released along with it was "Facebook Telephone", a Facebook application that lets you make phone calls from directly inside of Facebook.
In a post on the Phono blog, Chris Matthieu goes into detail about the application, how you can use it to call your friends... to call regular (PSTN) phone numbers... and also to call SIP addresses.
In using the app, I've found a couple of things rather cool:
- The "phone-in-the-browser" has been seamless for me in the sense that after I approved the initial Flash security warning (and told it to remember my setting), it "just worked" and I was able to start speaking to people without any problems.
- I like that you can call a friend on Facebook and if they don't have Facebook Telephone running in a browser it will automatically connect through to their mobile device.
- It's cool that it works over WiFi... I'm looking forward to trying it out in various different locations. (like the next plane I'm on with WiFi ;-)
On the point about calling your friends, if you click the "Friends with Telephone" button you see a list of all your friends who have installed the application. If you click on their image you will call them right then from within your browser. As noted above, if they don't have the Facebook Telephone app running right then, it will ring through to the phone number they have set up in the application:
One interesting point is that they never see my phone number - nor do I know theirs. Facebook Telephone combines the Phono client with the Tropo cloud communications service and creates an abstraction layer between you and the person you are calling.
You don't need to know the recipient's phone number... as the app just takes care of that routing for you. They see an incoming phone call from a number up on Tropo... preserving a level of anonymity between callers. Essentially, your Facebook friends list is already a master directory for messaging... now it is also that for telephone calls.
All this isn't to say the app is perfect... there can be some echo sometimes (a fact acknowledged by the Voxeo Labs team with this first release). And the current reliance on Flash means I can't use it on my iPad or iPhone.
Still, I think it's a cool use of Phono and I know Chris and the team have some even greater plans for the app.
If you'd like to try it out yourself, simply go to app.facebook.com/telephone (great URL, eh?) and step through the process of approving the app to connect to your FB account.
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