Jaxtr, which launched a private Beta today, is a VoIP based service that brings
'free' low cost (see update) voice calls to social networks and blogs. The company is based in Palo Alto, CA and was founded just over a year ago by Philip Mobin and Touraj Parang.
Once a user has registered their phone number with the service, they simply add the jaxtr widget to their blog or social network profile to begin receiving calls.
The first time a caller initiates a call, they simply click on the widget and enter their own telephone number, then wait for a call back - that way
the cost of the call remains free, and the recipient's phone number is never revealed. Next time they wish to call the same person they are required to use the special local number that jaxtr provides, specific to their country, which is charged at domestic rates - therefore bypassing international calling costs.
In a brief email exchange I spoke to newly recruited CEO Konstantin Guericke (who previously co-founded the social network LinkedIn), and started by asking who the company envisaged using the service:
My guess is that young women will be the early adopters of the jaxtr widget for MySpace and other social networks. Business people will probably put the link into their email signature file because it makes it free for their contacts to call them and they can route the incoming calls to the phone of their choice. We've also heard from a lot of bloggers today who are interested in putting the jaxtr widget on their blog.
Next up I asked about jaxtr's business plan. Guericke explained that the company makes money every time a user calls using the special local jaxtr number they're given, and additional revenue will be generated through advertising, and enhanced calling features. These might include "bigger buckets of minutes" or "ring-back tones". Another option may be to charge a monthly fee to users who need to call countries that aren't currently supported by jaxtr.
Finally, I asked Guericke if he was concerned that MySpace might launch it's own click-to- call service, or decide one day to block jaxtr's offering (a question I intend to put to any new company hoping to tap into the MySpace eco-system):
We work on all the major social networks and blogs, and there is plenty of competition among the social networks, so I think they are unlikely to take out a popular feature. When MySpace blocked YouTube, users revolted and MySpace unblocked it. Also, jaxtr links can get distributed through email signatures, craigslist ads, personal home pages, photo/video sharing sites, etc., so we don't rely on any single network.
Jaxtr is the first VoIP offering which is aimed specifically at the social networking space. Not only does the service dispense with the need to use a computer in order to make and receive VoIP-based calls, it also appropriately hides the recipient's phone number. It's for these reasons that I think jaxtr stands a good chance of success.
If you are a company about to launch an exciting new social web service or product and would like me to take a look, get in touch.