Free World Dialup (FWD) No Longer Free

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Free World Dialup (FWD) No Longer Free

Saw this news on http://www.freeworlddialup.com/ stating that Free World Dialup, often referred to as FWD is now no longer "free" but now has a $30 annual "fee". Well, at least they get to keep the FWD acronym since both have the letter 'f', but the domain name is no longer accurate.

freecall-logo.jpg Anyway, FWD was one of the first free SIP-to-SIP calling services using their SIP registrar (fwd.pulver.com:5060). It seems to me that FWD has had its loyal but small fanbase, but honestly I think it's outlived its usefulness. I can setup a FREE account here on FreeCall.com and not only get SIP-to-SIP calls for free, I can also get free calls to many PSTN destinations around the world! FreeCall.com is a relative unknown in the VoIP world, but their service is something I've been meaning to blog about. Well, I guess I just did.

Point being, who is going to continue with the FWD service if they switch from "free" to "fee"? My guess is that the vast majority of FWD users are technically savvy folks that know how to configure SIP settings and signed up because they were looking for free SIP-to-SIP calling. So converting them to paying customers isn't going to happen. They will look elsewhere for free SIP services. FreeCall.com just being one example.

According to their website, "Look for changes to FWD in the coming months. We started an effort to spin FWD off as a standalone enterprise after 12 years of incubation within pulver.com. You will find increased emphasis on hardware IP phones. Softphones and interconnecting with the PSTN represent mere half measures. The full potential of VoIP arrives when we have 4 billion IP phones in circulation.

Also check out this announcement on voip-info.org.

Fee Announcement from Free World Dialup
Dear FWD'er:

Free World Dialup is implementing a $30 USD annual membership fee during the month of August after 12 years as a free service.

A startup taking over a decade to reach conviction about a business model likely sets a record, but we believe $30 USD per year is the magic number. It is 10% of the cost for Vonage's unlimited usage plan. FWD provided the inspiration for the founding of Vonage in 2001, and Vonage's hybrid Internet-PSTN offer now generates nearly $1 billion in annual revenue. FWD's voluntary paid membership experiment last summer demonstrated the demand for a complete break from telephone network. FWD's future as a Communication ISP will include only those services that do not have a per minute charge. Rather than competing directly with the telco's or even Vonage, the mission of a Communication ISP is creating new opportunities and modes of communication. FWD will relaunch the website during August to focus on services, applications, and content available to people with VoIP SIP devices connected directly to the Internet.

See FWD CEO, Daniel Berninger's Communication ISP Manifesto.

If you wish to retain SIP registration and support FWD, please click through the paid membership banner at the top of the home page which links to the Acteva registration service.

Make sure you use the email associated with your FWD account (the one on which this message arrived.)

If you lost your FWD account info, you can use the password retrieval process or simply create a new account.

The first 1000 paid members get "founder" status, but FWD will retain existing free accounts through August 31, 2008. The new paid membership requirement allows for associating any number of accounts with the email address used for payment, so you can keep the free ride alive by finding a friend with paid membership.

I hope you will join in transforming FWD's nearly one million free accounts into paid memberships as we work to make the Communication ISP the next big thing in VoIP.

Best regards,

Jeff
According to their website, FWD will soon be offering FWDout which will allow users to call out to regular phones with their FWD service for a monthly fee. FWD will also soon be offering a seperate FWDin service which allows users to buy a regular phone number and connect it with their FWD service, so that people can call from their regular phones to an IP phone.

So what are your thoughts? Does FWD have a prayer as a pay-based model? Or have free SIP-to-SIP services plus the plethora of inexpensive SIP-to-PSTN services (Vonage, Packet8, BroadVoice) -- not to mention Skype -- make FWD pointless? Of course, magicJack charges $20/year for unlimited calling and is quite successful, so maybe Jeff Pulver is onto something here. Though it looks like FWD with be more expensive than magicJack since its $30 for the base package plus a monthly fee for FWDout and/or FWDin. Still, I'm not one to count Pulver out, especially now that VON is gone and Jeff can focus on new opportunities. I wish him luck.


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