Jangl is a new phone service that, initially anyway, will allow people to anonymize their phone numbers the same way they can their email addresses when posting on places such as craigslist. When you sign up with Jangl, you get access to disposable phone numbers that you can share with friends or strangers with whom you transact business. The phone numbers forward to your real number and anonymize in both directions.
The first time someone calls a Jangl user, they go through an approval process. It’s similar to the challenge-response systems used by some email services. When we tried it with Cerda, it took nearly a minute of back-and-forth key commands before we could connect. Once you’re on the white list, though, all subsequent calls go through more quickly.
Where would you use something like this? When you’re buying and selling online. We see people publicize their cell phone numbers all the time on craigslist. With Jangl they could add a layer of anonymity.
When you’re dating. Give your date your Jangl number, and then dump the number when you dump him.
On your blog or web site, as a another way to let people contact you.
There’s more, though. Because Jangl is IP-based on the backend, the service can also be used to deliver a wide variety of content to mobile phone users. Set up your account so that callers can press 1 to hear a song by your band (Cerda, a musician, is doing this on his Jangl number), press 2 to see your photos, and so on. Hosting a party? You could serve up directions from a special Jangl phone number that only your friends have access to. In theory, any IP-based content that can work on phones could be served through Jangl. We can envision lots of opportunities for businesses big and small to offer content to mobile users in this way.
Cerda also touts the fact that Jangl doesn’t need a presence on a mobile carrier’s deck and is essentially device-agnostic. In other words, anyone can use the service.
The business model is in flux, in the sense that users will help shape it depending upon their preferences. A subscription service is one option. But Cerda is keen on short audio ads that get inserted into calls when Jangl initiates connections between two people.
A few questions immediately come to mind:
Is phone privacy that big an issue that people will want to use this?
Privacy aside, is there an opportunity to use Jangl to connect with your social networks?
Can Jangl keep the connection time down to a reasonable level so that it doesn’t annoy people? Would you wait 10, 15, 25 seconds for a call to go through?
Will users endure mirco audio ads in their phone calls?
Jangl will likely get the answers to many of these questions soon. It’s inked a deal with an unnamed partner, and that launch is imminent. Another partnership will launch in the fall. In the meantime, regular Joes can now sign up to be part of the beta at the main web site.
As for the company itself, you might have heard of Jangl under its previous name, Buzzage, which we last wrote about here. The company is based in Pleasanton and has raised $2 million from Storm Ventures and Labrador Venture.
Cerda has been working in IP and phone stuff for years. He worked at Redback Networks and founded Ooma, among other things. He’s also surrounded himself with a team of people from places such as Covad, TellMe, Telocity and Sprint.
UPDATE: Cerda tackles the questions we raised on the Jangl blog.