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Software lets people search VoIP chitchat

United Virtualities offers free, ad-supported application that lets people search Net phone conversations.

Software
For the price of tailored advertisements, an Internet ad company is peddling free add-on features, including search capabilities, for conversations on Skype and other voice over Internet Protocol services.

Privately held United Virtualities, based in New York, on Monday introduced downloadable software for recording and searching phone conversations via voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP--a relatively new technology for placing phone calls over a broadband connection. The application, called HotRecorder, also allows people to create a voice mail box for VoIP calls and to forward messages to e-mail in-boxes or cell phones.

HotRecorder works with PC-initiated calls through Skype, AOL Instant Messenger, Firefly, Yahoo Messenger and Net2Phone. The free version of the software is supported by advertisements that are targeted according to the consumer's location, gender or age. People can also buy the software ad-free for about $15.

"All these VoIP products are getting more mainstream, and they need services to help them be more interesting," said Mookie Tenembaum, founder and CEO of United Virtualities.

Services based on VoIP have seen rapid growth in the past year, thanks in part to rates that are typically below what traditional phone services charge. Skype, for example, provides free international Internet phone calls to roughly 74 million registered users.

The major portals are also exploring further expansion into this arena. AOL has announced that it will but has yet to formally introduce it. Yahoo has expressed interest in expanding its PC-based voice services, with a footprint already down in the United Kingdom. Microsoft plans to embed voice calling into its corporate instant-messaging software. And rumors continue to swirl about whether Google is building the foundation for its own VoIP project, starting in the United Kingdom.

But apart from offering the connectivity, search for VoIP phone conversations could be a more natural extension for search-focused companies like Google. Already, Google, Yahoo, Blinkx and others have introduced PC desktop search tools for sifting through e-mail or IM conversations--and VoIP phone calls could be on the horizon.

"It's a great idea, assuming that people keep an archive of all of the voice mails," said Charlene Li, an analyst at Forrester Research.

United Virtualities' software, developed internally, lets people keep a record of their phone conversations and tag the file with a few keywords so that they can call up the interaction later by searching on those terms. The software does not search on text within the conversation.

Tenembaum said the ads are shown on the application, which launches each time a person initiates a VoIP phone conversation. The ads are targeted without using personally identifiable information from the user. The software also lets people add voice-over sounds to their conversations, or what it calls "emotisounds," presumably the voice equivalent of IM smileys.

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