The Jaxtr team is pitching its widget technology as the main differentiator of the service. Each Jaxtr user can put a box on their blog or their social network page that allows anyone to connect to them by phone. The reader puts in their phone number, and then Jaxtr calls both parties and connects them. Or--more likely for Jaxtr widgets posted on blog pages--Jaxtr connects the caller to voice mail for the blog owner. The owner can then pick up his or her messages on Jaxtr's Web site.
Go ahead and try it. You can use this widget to leave me a voice message (it's configured so that no matter which button you push, it won't ring my phone directly). Tell me what you think of Jaxtr or of this blog. Update: If you're going to try this, please don't put in a made-up phone number! I've been getting confused messages from people that Jaxtr has called, who clearly have not read this article...
I like the idea of making it easy for users to contact me by phone without actually having to give out a phone number. The caller can also hide his or her number from the recipient, which is nice. Jaxtr looks like a really good thing to use in e-mail signatures. Most importantly, Jaxtr's implementation of click-to-call is very simple for callers to use. There's no sign-up required or anything complex about it. You just enter your number, and Jaxtr connects you.
If you want more than a fleeting connection with a caller, Jaxtr makes it possible for the caller to get a direct line to your phone, but with two cool twists: First, the number isn't the recipient's phone number, it's a Jaxtr-assigned number that routes to the phone. Jaxtr users can specify which callers get routed to their phone and which go to voice mail, and they can disable other numbers entirely. Second, the number can be in the caller's (not the recipient's) local area code. So if you're in Sweden and your caller is in San Diego, your number, to the caller, would be a local San Diego number.
Jaxtr is going into private beta today. It will be free up to a certain number of minutes per month. The company may charge for additional features, like additional minutes, a "simul-ring" capability, or other calling options.
Jangl. I like it, but compared with Jaxtr it's complicated.
GrandCentral. Great features, but requires you to give out a new phone number.
Ether. Similar to Jaxtr and the above services, but focused on connecting revenue-generating calls for consultants and the like.
Industry tidbit: Jaxtr's new CEO is Konstantin Guericke, a co-founder of LinkedIn.