[AI] 'Call My E-Mail,' Yoomba says

vishnu ramchandani vishnuhappy at yahoo.com
Mon Jul 16 23:32:21 EDT 2007

'Call My E-Mail,' Yoomba says
Startup launches service that merges e-mail with VoIP
calls and instant messaging.
Cara Garretson, NetworkWorld

Startup Yoomba Thursday launched its namesake service
that lets e-mailers place VOIP calls and exchange
instant messages.

The year-old company positions its free,
consumer-targeted service as an alternative to big
portals, such as 
AOL, Google, Yahoo, and MSN
, that offer free communications services, such as
instant messaging, but only to registered users and
only with other registered users, says Elad Hemar,
Yoomba CEO.

In contrast, Yoomba operates a peer-to-peer service
that lets any e-mail-address owner place a VOIP call
or begin an IM session with any other e-mail address,
whether or not the recipient also is a Yoomba user,
Hemar says. Yoomba offers other features, such as
presence -- letting users know who on their contact
list is online -- and popularity -- resorting contact
lists so those most often contacted rise to the top.

E-mailers become users by registering at Yoomba's Web
site. Unlike other services, Yoomba doesn't require
registrants to set up a logon and password. Instead
they enter their e-mail address, and the registration
process happens behind the scenes, where the company's
server links that e-mail address with their
IP address, Hemar explains. The service places "call"
and "chat" buttons in Outlook, Outlook Express, and
major Web mail interfaces to contact people on
the user's contact list.

Leveraging a user's existing e-mail contact list
avoids what Hemar calls the "empty refrigerator"
syndrome (you buy a new fridge and take it home, but
useless because it's empty). Other services require
users to populate new contact lists with other users
who also use the service. Yoomba users can contact
anyone with a known e-mail address.

With other services, "you install their application,
you register, you choose a password, and at the end
you get an empty application -- you have to work
for the application. With Yoomba, it works for you,"
Hemar says.

While images of e-mail spammers placing VOIP calls and
sending IMs quickly come to mind, Hemar says the
company is using the necessary back-end technology
to prevent abuse of the service. "We will look at
abnormal usage or IP addresses moving around" and
instantly shut them down, he says.

Although the service targets consumers, Hemar says it
probably will be attractive to small businesses as
well, especially those that already use a Web mail
address as their business e-mail address.

Yoomba plans to make money through targeted
advertising in the user's e-mail interface, although
the initial version has no ads.

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