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Everyone is just so social these days, aren't they? So, what would happen if Ma Bell hooked up with Facebook? Their issue would probably look a lot like Ring Plus, a new IP phone service that's essentially your telephone on Web 2.0.
Entirely ad-supported, Ring Plus encourages fraternization among members who can view each others' profiles and photos and interact by e-mail or phone. Besides your Facebook-like profile, your Ring Plus web page includes your contacts, e-mail and voice-mail inboxes, search, reminders, tagged sharing for photos and videos, and the ability to invite friends into your circle.
Although it's just getting rolling, the service already lets you make completely free local and long-distance calls all over North America with any landline or cell phone; you may have to pay a toll to your local service provider to get to the closest Ring Plus access number, though. Currently, those numbers are local calls in the Chicago, Dallas, Minneapolis/St. Paul and New York City areas, as well as in Hawaii and Southern California. But by year-end, says founder and CEO Karl Seelig, Ring Plus should have local points of presence in all U.S. area codes. There's also three-way conferencing and free calls to Mexico and Europe (with a 10-minute limit).
The catch to using Ring Plus? You listen to brief ads while you wait to connect, and there are extra steps involved in making calls: You dial the Ring Plus access number, enter your account ID and password, then dial your party. Seelig uses a patented callback technology to make the call free, similar to that used by ringtones. It leaves plenty of time to listen to ads, but it's not onerous.
By the end of the year, says Seelig, Ring Plus subscribers will get a free IP desk phone pre-programmed with these numbers. Additional services will follow, including free pre-programmed mobile phones for all subscribers--albeit, with a 10-minute limit on each call.