Tina Fey’s new Netflix show is here for weekend binge-watching

There are two good reasons to pay attention to the The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which is Tina Fey’s new series that debuted Friday on Netflix.

The first reason is that the show, about a young woman rebuilding her life in New York City after 15 years in a cult, is good — really good. I saw a preview of the first two episodes in New York in February, and the show is odd, fresh and funny. It’s easy to root for Kimmy (Ellie Kemper, who also played Erin on The Office), while her gay black sidekick Titus (Tituss Burgess) may be unlike any other character on TV. The show got a 78 at MetaCritic and folks at Rotten Tomatoes seem to like it too.

The other reason to take note of Kimmy Schmidt is because it shows, once again, how much the creation and distribution of TV has changed. As the New York Times recounted earlier this month, the initial episodes of Kimmy Schmidt were supposed to appear on NBC. The network, however, got cold feet, so Tina Fey decided to take it elsewhere.

Netflix lapped it up and agreed to buy two full seasons. Fey told the Times that the shift in platform also allowed for better plots and pacing because episodes were not confined to 22 minutes.

The stars of the show, meanwhile, appeared conflicted over the implication of services like Netflix displacing networks. In response to a question at the February premiere, Kemper said she was glad to be a Netflix star but still felt loyalty to NBC.

Finally, while the The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has the makings of a hit, its actually popularity will be hard to measure since Netflix doesn’t disclose how many people watch its shows (even though it knows precisely). As such, it will be hard to know if Kimmy will outperform the unwatchable Marco Polo, another recent Netflix offering that was likely targeted to a very different audience.

If Kimmy succeeds, it will be another feather in the cap of Netflix’s home grown hits, to go alongside House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.

Telefonica’s Tu Go service turns to WebRTC for in-browser calls

The Spanish carrier group Telefónica is big on WebRTC, the technology that allows for plugin-free in-browser voice and video calls, among other things – it uses it for the in-browser Skype rival that’s built into Firefox these days, for example. So it’s no surprise to see the firm turn to WebRTC to power the next generation of its Tu Go service, which extends Telefónica/O2/Movistar’s services from the mobile network to Wi-Fi.

Whereas the desktop Tu Go client has so far been a discrete affair, it can now be accessed from within the browser, as long as that browser supports WebRTC – so far, Chrome and Firefox apparently offer the best experience. There’s no need to download anything extra and, as with the new Reach Me feature in rival Orange’s Libon app, this provides another way to take and make calls using your normal mobile phone number even when there’s no reception (Libon doesn’t require you to be an Orange customer, though).

The service bases its experience on conversation timelines and is designed to make it easy to continue conversations across devices. Tu Go for Web also makes it possible to conduct up to five conversations at once, which sounds technically impressive if somewhat mentally taxing.

One more thing to keep an eye out for: Telefónica is experimenting with integrating Tu Go with IFTTT so, for example, incoming SMSes could be automatically saved in Evernote or incoming calls from specific people could change the color of your home’s lighting as an alert.

When Tu Go came out a couple years back, I said Telefónica had pulled off the rare trick of creating unique value in a carrier-backed “over-the-top” (OTT) app — rather than just trying to cannibalize its own mobile services with an OTT rival. It is using the internet to extend that core service to new devices. It’s good to see the company still playing around with new ideas that this IP-based world makes possible.

Tu Go for Web is available now to O2 customers in the U.K. and Movistar customers in Argentina. It will also soon roll out to Peru, Mexico and Brazil, which are entirely new markets for Tu Go.

Orange’s Libon app lets you take calls to your number over Wi-Fi

Libon, the WhatsApp and Skype competitor from French carrier group Orange, has an interesting new feature called Reach Me, which will allow people to send and receive calls over Wi-Fi using their mobile phone number, regardless of who their actual carrier is.

The Libon app has been around for more than two years now — Orange won’t say how many users it has amassed during that time, but the carrier group uses it to offer special calling deals through its local operators, and Libon chief Dominic Lobo told me that people are using it in over 100 countries.

The Reach Me feature is being pitched as a way to get around poor indoor mobile coverage. “If someone calls you, the call is picked up by your Libon service – all you need is Wi-Fi coverage in your home or wherever you are and you’ll never miss a call,” Lobo told me.

I reckon that also makes it an interesting proposition for those traveling overseas and looking to avoid roaming voice fees, though they would of course need to have a Wi-Fi connection, and Libon will have to have been enabled in the country where they are.

Orange will show off the Reach Me feature at Mobile World Congress next week, and will roll it out commercially during the first half of this year. Italy will be first, somewhere around the end of March. According to Lobo, Italy has a lot of Android phones (the feature will be available on that platform first) and enough existing Libon users to provide Orange with good data on the initial rollout.

In addition, Orange doesn’t have a carrier in Italy, making it a good showcase for the so-called “over-the-top” (i.e. provided over the internet like Skype et al) nature of the app. “We want to demonstrate that we can launch it in a market unrelated to ours,” Lobo said.