Ribbit Launches

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Tom Keating
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Ribbit Launches

RibbitRibbit is a development platform launching today, which enables developers to integrate communications solutions into their web applications. A proprietary softswitch (the Ribbit SmartSwitch) mediates communication across protocols, networks and devices. That includes MSN Messenger, Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger (soon) and Skype.

Essentially Ribbit is a back-end multi-protocol softswitch (called SmartSwitch) that allows communication between different networks, carriers and device types. The Ribbit SmartSwitch is their own proprietary Lucent-tested CLASS 5 softswitch. When combined with their open Flash/Flex-based API, they enable developers to quickly build innovative, rich voice applications and integrate them into web sites, communities and applications. The Ribbit VoIP client is Flash and since Flash is installed on 99.1% of PCs/Macs, this enables virtually anyone to use it with no installation necessary and with cross-platform support. Here's a diagram of the architecture:

Ribbit Platform Architecture

"The world doesn't need another phone company," said Ted Griggs, co-founder and CEO at Ribbit. "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. We've been working hard these first two years to put together the right team, technology, and business model to meet this opportunity, and we're finally ready to go to market."

Ribbit has an interesting business model. Ribbit makes money by charging developers a monthly fee for the access and support they receive. Ribbit will also make money through the direct sale of consumer and enterprise applications, as well as the merchandising of third party solutions.

Developers will find it very easy to integrate Ribbit into their applications using the Ribbit API. Functions available include call control, authentication, billing, messaging, and more. The Ribbit API abstracts the protocol inter-communication between MSN Messenger, Google Talk, and even Skype. Ribbit has reverse-engineered the Skype protocol to provide the ability for Skype users to receive calls from MSN Messenger users, Yahoo Messenger users and Google Talk users by leveraging the Ribbit SmartSwitch. Any of these VoIM clients can intercommunicate via the Ribbit SmartSwitch. The SmartSwitch handles the protocol conversions as well as the media stream transcoding. This is no small feat, and is part of Ribbit's "secret sauce".

One sample application you can build is a web-based click-to-call application that calls remote call center agents. These agents can use Google Talk, Skype, or whatever their favorite VoIM application is, in order to receive the call. Here's an overview of the Ribbit API:

Ribbit Softswitch API architecture

Ribbit already has some interesting applications under its belt. One is integration with Salesforce.com, which integrates a salesperson's mobile phone with the Salesforce application. Ribbit can take voicemail messages, transcribe them (uses Simulscribe) and delivers them as voice and as text to the Ribbit for Salesforce user. The voicemail and transcribed voicemail text is stored in the database making it easily searched. Voicemail messages can be searched by the content of the messages as well as tagged with keywords for easier future retrieval. Ribbit demoed the Salesforce.com integration to me and I was pretty impressed. Here's a screenshot of it in action (click image for full view). You'll notice Voice Tags as well as a yellow 'tool tip' above the mouse cursor displaying the transcribed content of the voicemail message:
Ribbit Salesforce.com integration

I should point out that the Ribbit interface is completely customizable and can be added to other applications. One popular application is Adobe AIR iPhone, an iPhone look-alike interface. The one thing it was missing was VoIP/PSTN calling. The developer added using Ribbit's API's was able to turn the device into a real phone, able to make and receive PSTN phone calls. Here's a shot of the Adobe AIR iPhone and another interface that looks like a chalkboard.

Adobe AIR iPhone RibbitRibbit chalkboard interface
I'll be interesting to see how quickly developers jump on Ribbit. Certainly the Flash support and interoperability between the major IM clients is a huge advantage when trying to build Web 2.0/Voice 2.0 applications. The main driver behind VoIP adoption up till now has been cheap minutes. I hope Ribbit is able to succeed in having business processes integrated with telephony & VoIP drive interesting Web telephony applications.

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