INTERVIEW by DANIELLE OLIVER | PHOTOGRAPHY by BIANCA FLORES
Tomaž Štolfa and the team at vox.io have made it easier than ever to make voice calls to anyone in the world. The solution is simple: replacing a phone number with a URL. Now, they’re branching out from voice and video calling to all forms of communication, and their goal is to revolutionize the way we interact with each other — from one part of the globe to another.
So… if I wanted to explain to someone what vox.io was, I’d say that it’s “voice calling using a URL.” Now, what does that mean, exactly? How does it work?
vox.io is a real-time communication tool. We started as an easy way to make free calls to other vox.io users and convenient calls to any traditional phone from your iPhone or your browser of choice.
Phone numbers really are not the optimal way to enter a conversation anymore. They are tied to a specific geography and network. vox.io profile links replace phone numbers, while one-time call links extend that concept with an additional layer of disposability. When a one-time call link is sent, the person on the other side can call you back without having to sign up for vox.io or install any additional software. Finally, we extended this to group calls as well. Instead of dialing long numbers and entering call PINs, you just click on a link and join a call.
What is this technology in response to? Or rather, how is this type of calling advantageous in comparison to other voice calling systems?
vox.io is the real-time communication tool we wanted to have for ourselves. Existing solutions feel bloated with features, are complicated, require installation and setup, and do limit innovation, since most of them are very vertically oriented. We wanted something that felt very lightweight, disposable, simple, and convenient to use. Hopefully, the current and future vox.io products fit this description.
How are programs like this going to affect the future of voice calling, and how will this type of technology integrate into mobile devices?
vox.io is not only voice or video. We started in that limited field, but our long-term vision has always included real-time communication as a whole, including text-based communication.
If we analyze most communication today, we’ll see that it usually starts with asynchronous text (email) and escalates to synchronous text (voice or video) if either more information value or extra speed in the information exchange is required. We want to offer a great experience during this entire flow.
By using a URL, my fear would be that (like anything you post on the internet) there’d be a record of it. Does using a URL for phone calls actually save the call or make an audio record of it? Can people “listen in” while it’s happening?
There is an important distinction between a URL that serves as an entry point and the conversation itself. vox.io provides the user two types of links, which both make sense for specific use cases. The first one is a permanent profile address that replaces your phone number: it acts as a single point of contact, with all the privacy control required. You pick who and from where can actually reach you. The second one is a disposable link. If I want to talk to someone without having to connect forever, I can just create a link, send it over, and get called back. This works also as a new age collect-call mechanism, as the recipient pays for the call when needed.
What’s been the biggest challenge to launch vox.io?
Our product is very complex in terms of technology. One of the biggest challenges we were and still are facing is how to abstract this and hide all this complexity behind a simple and easily understandable interface, even as our product grows.
What are your hopes for 2012? What should we look out for?
In regard to vox.io, I’m really looking forward to the new products we will be releasing soon. I believe that we will start showing how real-time communication changes when you can communicate not only with your text and voice and video, but also with existing content.
In general, I’m looking forward to more tools that will enable us to live a better life, understand how our body works better, and provide us information upon which we’ll be able to make better decisions.
If you could have a 30-minute phone call (using vox.io, of course) with anyone in the world, alive or dead, who would you want to speak to?
I’d like to have a chat with Nikola Tesla. His work was far ahead of his time and wealth was never his main driver. I believe we need more Teslas.
How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to vox.io’s success? Is there anyone you’re looking to connect with (developers, investors, etc)?
The entire vox.io kindly invites Daily BR!NK readers to try out vox.io and let us know how they like it. We genuinely value feedback and do our best to incorporate it in new versions.
In terms of needs — we are expanding our team both in Slovenia and California with smart people that would like to empower people to communicate better. Both technical and non-technical.