For a fee, Ribbit plans to let developers use its technology as a basis to build their own applications and features. Griggs says that Ribbit’s integration with Flash allows Web developers to program for it the way they would any Web application and without having to understand the intricacies of telephony.
Ribbit’s development platform was released in December, and already, applications have been made for both fun and business. One developer, Joe Johnston, built an Adobe AIR application that emulates the look and behavior of an iPhone and allows users to place calls through Ribbit. Another Ribbit application, this one made for SalesForce.com, receives messages left on mobile phones and automatically transcribes what is said and stores the transcription files in a searchable format.
Rebecca Swensen, a research analyst for VoIP services at IDC, thinks it’s important for mobile technologies to integrate with Internet telephony. Communication services should eventually tailor themselves to work within the context of the user’s life, she says. She believes that Ribbit is making an early step toward this vision. “The Ribbit platform opens up the possibility of putting control into the user’s hands and making it easier for them to contact people,” she says. However, Swensen notes that, while Ribbit may be first in the game, it’s unlikely to be last. “I would be surprised if something similar doesn’t come out from a company like Google,” she says, “and that could be huge competition for Ribbit.”
The company plans to make money by charging developers for building on the platform, and by charging users for enhanced features for individual accounts.