Guessing Google’s VoIP Plan

In my Business 2.0 story, Google Net, I outlined the how’s and why’s of Google’s dark fiber & WiFi plans, and in the accompanying graphic highlighted some of the “bandwidth hungry applications” the company may have on deck. On of them was Voice. I wrote Google could “use VOIP technology to dial phone numbers that appear in local search results.”

Since the story first made the rounds, a few new developments. Google released Google Talk, its voice-enabled IM client based on Jabber platform. And earlier this week there was news that Google was experimenting with selling offline ads. Yannick Laclau, discovered something interesting in an article about AHS systems, the company featured in the Google experimental ads.

“It’s a lot of exposure for cheap,” he said, adding that Google is “doing a ton of tracking on this. They’re using their own 1-800 numbers on this, and it forwards to our line.” The Internet addresses of the online versions of the ads also redirect traffic through Google servers.

As I hinted earlier, this is a pay-per-call model that could be the “VoIP” play for Google. A lot of start-ups have already started mucking around with it. The leader in this space is Ingenio, which has a deal with AOL. The pay-per-call results typically make more money for sites that use pay-per-call model, and this includes various publications and portals. Another start-up that has jumped into the fray is Insider Pages, an Idea Lab company. Jupiter’s Gary Stein has some thoughts on this trend, as he tries to come-up with reasons for why Microsoft bought Teleo.

We know that local merchants would rather pay for a call than a click; having pay-per-call as a product is pretty much a must for anyone looking to get into the local directory business.

I guess, as Voice-over-IM tries to find its footing, the first application that becomes popular is this “pay for call” feature. Yannick sums it up nicely when he writes:

So could all the talk about Google’s VoIP plans really be all about extending its advertising franchise into pay-per-call, rather than offering plain old consumer minutes, a la everyone else?

An obvious, simple and practical observation!

PS: folks – this will be a constantly updated post. I am still thinking about this a bit more. If you have any thoughts, do let me know.