Profile: Ribbit

Startup promises to seamlessly match phone tools, Web applications

Ryan Kim, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, December 17, 2007

Ribbit, a Mountain View startup officially
launching today, is trying to bridge the telephone world and the Web by
opening up its core technology to outside developers.

The startup aims to give developers an easy way to integrate
telephone tools into a variety of Web sites and applications. It could
make it easier for Web sites visited from PCs and mobile devices to
offer a host of calling functions that allow users to easily make
calls, manage their communications and integrate calling with other
functions.

Ribbit, for example, has been testing integration with
Salesforce.com’s sales application, allowing salespeople to have phone
functions – call logging, mobile phone voice mail transcriptions,
Internet calling – right from the Salesforce Web application.


Imagine Facebook with easy call functions or travel sites that can
connect you to destinations at the click of a button. With developers
able to write telephone applications with Adobe’s Flash and Flex tools
for now, they can easily place this capability in a variety of Web
sites.

"We’re taking all the features, messaging, call logging, all the
things that a phone company would hold dear, we’re saying developers
can have access to that and can do what they want," said Ribbit chief
executive Ted Griggs.

Ribbit’s open-platform approach follows the success of Facebook,
which has seen its popularity skyrocket with the addition of
third-party applications written by outside developers.

Griggs said this type of telephone integration can happen for a
number of applications, allowing people to blend phone access with
social-networking sites and other Web destinations.

Ribbit has made this possible by buying its own operator-class soft
switch, a piece of telephone network equipment that helps direct
traffic over traditional phone lines and the Internet. This gives it
advantages over some cheap Internet phone companies that lease
switches, allowing Ribbit to ensure quality of service. The key,
however, is opening up access to the switch and allowing developers to
write applications for it in languages they are used to.

Salesforce.com’s vice president of developer marketing, Adam Gross,
said adding the flexibility of full phone service to Salesforce’s Web
application provides users with new productivity tools.

"Ribbit really brings this idea of sophisticated telephony service
to the business Web," said Gross. "For customers, it means they can
make calls from their customer databases and they can also take voice
mail and telephony tools and make it available and malleable."

Ribbit has already lined up 600 developers who will work on
applications for Ribbit. The company expects to begin selling in the
first quarter of 2008.

While Ribbit officials believe the service will have broad appeal,
they hope to reach out first to small and medium-size businesses.

Ribbit, which will offer free calls over the Internet, hopes to
make money by charging for services like voice mail transcriptions and
calls to traditional land lines.

Analysts said Ribbit is the first company to really try to tackle
telephony with this open model. The promise for Ribbit is the ability
to integrate telephony into a variety of fields, helping people become
more efficient in managing their work and personal lives, said Will
Stofega, an analyst with IDC.

"The notion of simply pushing out free and cheap voice calls is interesting for about five seconds," Stofega said.

"With companies like Ribbit and other next-generation
(Internet)-based communications providers, the ones that can make it
will link to other applications and figure out to how to use voice and
(Internet)-based applications to create a better working environment."

 

E-mail Ryan Kim at rkim@sfchronicle.com.

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