March 8, 2008

Web, meet phone. Phone, meet web.

nce upon a time, people "got on the internet" by firing up their browser or email client. These days, the line between the internet and other media is blurred beyond recognition. VoIP and other innovations are making the internet truly pervasive in our lives. Have you tried GOOG-411 yet? Amazing--and so incredibly helpful!

Last October, David Pogue delivered a very funny keynote address in which he highlighted several examples of how the internet now mingles with our cell phones and land lines. One of those, PopularityDialer, was shut down by the FCC. Another, GrandCentral, was since acquired by Google who is now providing it free for their Blogger users.

This is great news, because GrandCentral provides amazing functionality! They give you a new single phone number (you choose the area code) that when called can ring any of your existing phones (home, work, mobile, the other mobile, Skype-In number, whatever). It will call any of those phones individually or even simultaneously (wrap your head around that!), allowing you to decide where or if you want to take the call. The service is very customizable too, so you can screen calls, send them to voicemail, listen in, block the caller, or even ring different phones depending on the caller ID. Plus, they give you buttons like the one above to display on your blog or web page to make it easy for people to reach you!

Your GrandCentral number serves as a proxy for all your other numbers, so you can limit the number of people who know your "real" phone numbers. Visual voicemail (made popular by the iPhone) means you can login to the GrandCentral website to see a list of all your calls complete with details, a sound recording of each message, and a link to return the call (which actually calls your phone and connects you automatically). Here's a demo of the visual voicemail so you can see how it works. There's even a mobile version of their site (, so visual voicemail is easy to use from your cell phone's web browser.

Two other handy tools that blur the line between phones and the internet are Jott and Wakerupper. Register your phone with Jott, then call their toll-free number to leave yourself voice memos and reminders which are then sent to your email inbox as audio recordings. Wakerupper takes the opposite approach. Tell it when to call you and enter a text message. Wakerupper waits patiently until the moment you've asked it to call you, then it delivers your message as an audio recording (using text-to-speech which works surprising well). Vote for these and other apps (or search for intriguing Web 2.0 applications) at the Webware 100 Awards of 2008 website.

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