Hey, What About Phono?

I’m happy for Twilio.

This week they announced a JavaScript library that supports VoIP calls from within a browser. Or in their marketing words, “audio pipes for voice communications in web and mobile apps”. With a few lines of code, any web page can now include a thin-client softphone. Bellisimo.

They’ve gotten a lot of nice reviews and extensive coverage from the tech press. I’ve been a fan of Twilio as well. I’ve written about Twilio’s other web service APIs, which quickly let you put together an in-the-clouds voice app for doing simple speech rec and text-to-speech.

Wait a second, wasn’t there another company, outside of the New York-San Francisco-Boston hackopolises, that did something similar about a year ago?

Now I remember, Orlando-based Voxeo introduced Phono, a jQuery plugin that, like Twilio’s new client, lets you instantly add a VoIP widget to a browser.

It’s just a few lines of code.

Perhaps because Voxeo has been around longer—it’s not a young, exciting startup—they don’t get the attention they deserve. And they do deserve greater notice. They have deep roots in telecom and a special expertise in speech recognition.

Voxeo and Twilio are two companies that are easy to mix up—those o- endings don’t help matters. Lots of startups, especially ones that are doing group conferencing, have been using Twilio’s API’s to jumpstart their ventures. It’s an easy set of APIs to master.

Voxeo has a similar cloud service called Tropo—I know, more bloody o’s—that does pretty much the same thing as Twilio: voice, SMS, and instant messaging.

But Voxeo’s voice dialog software rocks the house. With Voxeo, you’re given a complete implementation of VoiceXML or Voice Extensible Markup Language, kind of HTML for voice interactions.

Those startups that have accelerated quickly with Twilio’s API will soon run up against its limited voice dialog features: their diluted VoiceXML subset, to give one example, can’t handle proper phoneme interpretation that’s critical to getting pronunciations just right in text-to-speech. Voxeo’s Tropo gets an A in that department.

So what about Voxeo’s Phono? I tried it out last year soon after it was released and was hacking around with it again this afternoon. They offer a sweet jQuery plugin, callme, that makes adding VoIP particularly easy.

And unlike Twilio’s VoIP client, Phono supports SIP, the open-standard telecom connection protocol that’s used heavily in the world of corporate telecom. This may be a consideration for conferencing startups that want to add a few cube-dwelling customers.

By the way, here’s the jQuery you need to get Phono embedded on your web page:


") .css({"width":"220px"}) .callme({ apiKey: "C17D167F-09C6-4E4C-A3DD-2025D48BA243", numberToDial: "8007773456", buttonTextReady: "1-800-777-FILM", slideOpen:true }) )



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