Pinger, a startup offering free text and voice messaging, has launched Textfree Web, a service that aims to blur the lines between SMS and mobile IM. Anyone with access to a web browser can text any mobile number from the U.S. and more than 18 other countries. Messages with photos can also be sent gratis.

Pinger faces competition from Apple’s iMessage – a feature in the iOS 5 update that will send free messaging between iPhones, iPads or iPod Touches. Co-founder and chief executive Greg Woock says Pinger is different. Its products are cross-platform, whereas Apple’s iMessage only works with iOS devices. “When Apple brought out Facetime, people didn’t stop using Tango,” Woock told Venturebeat, “With Textfree Web, people don’t have to worry about whether you have an iPhone, Android, etc.”

For Woock, a lot of Pinger’s success comes from grabbing the attention of the young and phone-number less (anyone feel a soap opera coming on?). By giving teens their first phone number, they are likely to carry that number with them through life. Pinger hopes that a 17 year old getting a mobile phone will give out the Pinger number instead of the carrier assigned one. Pinger sees 1.6 billion in text messages a month and up to 50 million minutes of calling.

The next move for the company is in Europe. Due to high communication rates, there is a need for a free alternative. Woock, who spoke to VentureBeat after coming out of Customs has been working in Germany to bring German numbers to Pinger’s offerings. For now, only U.S. numbers are available, though texts can be sent to countries is Asia, Latin America and Europe.

Pinger is 2004 alumni of the DEMO Conference.

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