One feature not previously discussed when covering the Skype 3.5 for Windows beta release ten days ago is a new twist for obtaining U.S. phone numbers. Skype and Jingle Networks, Inc., operator of the popular (and free) 1-800-FREE411 directory assistance service have announced a strategic partnership whereby the 1-880-FREE411 service is accessible to Skype users via a Skype contact. Just add Free411USA as a Skype contact; the directory assistance call is treated as a free Skype-to-Skype call.
As an ad supported service users must simply listen to a short ad prior to obtaining a phone number in lieu of the $0.75 to $3.00 fee charged typically by the traditional carriers. However, in addition to obtaining a number verbally, the user, provided s/he is using the Skype 3.5 client, will also receive a Skype Chat message containing the number such that it can be called directly via SkypeOut from your 800-FREE411 chat window. As for any SkypeOut call, two clicks, one to select the number in the Chat message and a second to acknowledge that this will be a SkypeOut call. Two aspects to the 800-FREE411 service:
- 800-FREE411 is, in some sense, also a verbal Yellow Pages; you can call and ask for, say, a pizza parlor in a city you are visiting. 800-FREE411 will not only give you the name of a sponsoring pizza parlor but also you may get some promotional incentive to go to that particular vendor.
- With 800-FREE411 as a Skype Contact, Skype users from outside the U.S. can call and ask for, say, a hotel in a particular area of Los Angeles; this worldwide user base provides additional value to the advertisers who sponsor 800-FREE411. But keep in mind you are only going to obtain U.S. phone numbers via this service.
The Jingle Networks relationship is the first of a new business service offered by Skype called Commercial Contacts. Companies that want to brand their Skype presence and participation can now register and buy their company name to use as their Skype Contact Name. Currently Skype is in a "beta" phase with this service to iron out the wrinkles. Interested businesses should send an email to email@example.com from which you will receive the following response:
.Many thanks for your interest in our business contacts program.
Skype's business contacts program is currently in beta. We are working with a few selected partners at the moment but keep expanding the list so sign up now. To become a business contact partner, please send us the following information:
1. Name of your business.
2. Type of business.
3. Postal address where your business is registered.
4. Your Skype Name - we'll use this to reach you.
We'll review your application as soon as possible and get back with further information. Due to the high volume of applications it might take a little longer, apologies up front.
Update Aug. 1, 2007: Check out the full instructions for setting up this service.Skype Journal: Need a US Phone Number? Call 1-800-FREE411 on Skype