Twilio Launches Roll-Your-Own Google Voice

Twilio, a San Francisco-based startup whose platform and services marry voice to the web world, is launching OpenVBX, an open-source web application that is in essence a roll-your-own Google Voice. With it, you get toll-free and local phone numbers, which can in turn be used to route calls to existing cellphones and landlines.

OpenVBX is not the first open-source telephony offering. Asterisk and Freeswitch are the most well known, but require a certain level of sophistication in order to be deployed inside corporations. Implementing OpenVBX is simple and yields the one thing users want most: a voice mail box that also forwards calls to different numbers.

Such simplification of VoIP-based services is a larger trend, other examples of which include Calliflower, a mobile-centric conference calling service. Earlier this month, Voxeo’s Tropo introduced OpenVoice, a virtual number application that can forward calls, handle voice mails (with transcriptions), send and receive SMS and make outbound calls.

OpenVBX is targeted at small- and medium-sized businesses. It’s multi-user, there’s an easy drag ‘n drop UI for building business applications, and a voicemail and SMS interface for managing communications. Says the company:

As an open-source application, software developers, IT departments and consultants can download the source code and freely customize it for any company, vertical or industry. Web developers can tailor OpenVBX by building plugins to automate and direct phone calls, such as a shipment status integration for e-commerce companies, a store locator for retailers, or appointment booking features for doctors offices.

In addition, OpenVBX provides Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for deep integration with existing CRM and ERP workflows, and a theming system to rebrand the interface for clients. Software developers, IT departments and consultants can download the developer preview release of OpenVBX from to install on their servers.

Unofficial plugins have been developed for 37Signals’ Highrise CRM and Zendesk. An unofficial Foursquare plugin developed by Andrew Watson is the most interesting of them all: thanks to this plugin, when he is checking in at home, all his work calls go straight to voice mail.

So what’s in it for Twilio? Well, the system uses the underlying Twilio infrastructure, which means users buy phone numbers and connectivity from the company. I’m still playing around with a demo version Twilio shared with us — I’ll update the post when I’m done.