Jangl Uses VOIP to Create Anonymous Phone Numbers

Jangl formally announced the opening of their beta service this morning. Jangl provides an ID that users can give out to other people to create a VOIP number unique to a single relationship between two people. VOIP is used as the connection between any two phones, be they land lines, cell phones or VOIP calls. The service has been in use at Match.com for several weeks but it’s now available to anyone through the Jangl site.

When you sign up for a Jangl account, you provide your phone number, a PIN and a Jangl ID. You can then give people the Jangl phone number and your Jangl ID. The first time they try to make a connection, the caller has to record a greeting requesting permission to connect. A Jangl ID holder can remove that permission later and no longer be reached through the number. The service is free at launch but Jangl says they expect to charge a fee in early 2007.

Jangl has raised a total of $9 million in two rounds of funding over two years, the second round closed in July. Funders include Storm Ventures, Labrador Ventures and Cardinal.

It’s a little awkward to ask someone to call this company and put in your ID, maybe you’ll accept their call and maybe you won’t. Once a connection has been made, then the individual connection gets a regular ten digit phone number that can be called. I’m sure this will work for situations like online dating, but I can’t imagine off the top of my head how I’d use it in a professional context. I give out my direct line fairly frequently and even the occasional cold call by PR people doesn’t bother me enough that I would want to initiate those relationships with a phone number everyone knows I could cut off at any time. Give me time though and perhaps my cynicism will grow.

I can see a lot of possible applications of Jangl but regular individual use isn’t one of them.

One way or the other, this is another interesting and innovative use of VOIP. While Skype celebrated its first instance of 8 million simultaneous users last week, its huge price tag is widely seen as a loss to the eBay community that has failed to use Skype in conjunction with auctions. Instead, services like Jangl, JaJah, Grand Central and now the newly released TalkPlus are all leveraging VOIP to connect the mobile and land line phones we’re already using. Will this be the real market viable application of VOIP technology? It could be, or it could be proof that the best use of this technology is still yet to come.