Make VoIP calls using only a web browser

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A couple days ago we received a press release for a new service named CallingAmerica, which permits you to make free VoIP calls to U.S. phone numbers using only your web browser. Offered free of charge, users are required to look at advertisements for about 10 seconds before calls are connected (AdBlock Plus worked just fine to suppress the ads, by the way).

You don’t need to sign up or anything: you simply type in a phone number and press “Free Call”. You need to key in a simple easy-to-read CAPTCHA response, then watch a timer count down ten seconds while you stare at the ads emblazoned on the site. After that, your call is connected.

Gripe: there’s no ringtone played to the caller, so you have no way of knowing what the site is doing when it says “Connecting…” You just sit there twiddling your thumbs, hoping that the telephony fairies complete your call correctly.

I used CallingAmerica to call John Biggs, who of course refused to take my call. His lengthy voicemail greeting sounded acceptable through CallingAmerica — about as good as any other VoIP call I’ve made.

The info we received is that CallingAmerica is only available to people within the U.S. If they’re doing IP geolocation to enforce this, they’re doing a poor job. I had my dad, who’s currently in Kiev, Ukraine, call me and it worked just fine. As a recipient of the call, I thought the sound quality superior to Skype or Gizmo.

Speaking of Gizmo: they, too, are offering a web-based VoIP solution now called GizmoCall. I’ve been a long time Gizmo user because I don’t really feel comfortable with Skype’s black magic p2p routing. Good ol’ fashioned SIP telephony gives me that warm and fuzzy feeling.

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GizmoCall is basically a web-based version of the Gizmo client. You can call SIP numbers and 1-800 numbers for free, but to call landlines or cell phones you’ll need to purchase call-out credits. You also need to have a Gizmo account to use GizmoCall.

Sound quality with GizmoCall was about the same as with the Gizmo desktop client. If you’re a regular Gizmo user, GizmoCall offers a nice option for making (and receiving!) calls when you’re not near your normal computer — say, when you’re over the hills and through the woods at Grandmother’s house.

You can embed a GizmoCall widget into your own site; and you can also install a GizmoCall Firefox add-on to turn phone numbers into hyperlinks that can be called from your browser. Finally, for $4, you can also have GizmoCall report your own CallerID number, which might help John answer my calls…

I couldn’t get either CallingAmerica or GizmoCall to work correctly on my Ubuntu 8.10 x64 installation using the beta of 64-bit Adobe Flash version 10, but they both worked just fine on Windows XP x86. Ivan, our man in Hungary, reported problems trying CallingAmerica on his Mac. My sister, also in Kiev, reported similar problems trying CallingAmerica from her Mac.

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