Don’t Just Read—Hear Personalized Social Networking Posts With Thing5’s Jawbite App

The “happy birthday” wall post on Facebook or mention on Twitter is about to get a whole lot more personal.

Now, rather than just typing out a message or status on one of the social networking tools, you can attach a voicemail to it, thanks to a feature called JawBite, from Springfield, MA-based voice telecom company Thing5.

The firm, founded in 2004, has specialized in providing software-as-a-service-based functions like hosted voicemail, phone dashboard controls and forwarding, instant messaging, and other corporate telecommunication services. But the company has been looking to break into consumer-facing products, says Thing5 managing director David Thor.

Users can sign up for JawBite—which has quietly been on the market for a few weeks but was officially announced today—and link their phone numbers or Skype accounts to their Facebook and Twitter usernames. They can then dial into the service from any phone or Skype account and post an update, or direct a post specifically to another Facebook or Twitter friend’s wall or feeds. The service works from any phone number, even a landline, and will soon integrate as an app for the iPhone and Android phones. It also enables users to post audio content from the Web.

There are a few other companies out there with technology that does voice-to-text and vice-versa for posting on social updates, but Thor says there are a few differentiators for JawBite. Thing5’s software goes a step further than other applications that translate your voice updates into text or read your friends’ posts aloud to you, by posting an actual link to the original recording, stored on the JawBite site. Though it cuts the post off at a certain number of text characters, as constrained by Facebook or Twitter, recipients can check out the full, original voice message, with the sender’s tone and inflection, and not just a standardized recording.

“It takes that sound input, converts the voice to text, and posts the text along with the original voice recording,” Thor says. “You get your voice and your high definition.”

JawBite automatically follows the privacy settings users have set up for their Facebook or Twitter accounts, but also enables users to manually limit who can see and hear the posts via its service, Thor says. Additionally, the majority of voice-to-text technologies limit posting your own status and not directly targeting a specific friend, but JawBite goes a step further. “If I want to take a sound file and post it to a friend’s wall, I pick that friend and do it,” he says.

You might ask, why would someone bother posting a voice recording to a social networking site when they could just as easily call their friend directly? Thor says the company sees a transition in how consumers are looking at their phones. “It’s about the telephone as a mobile microphone,” he says.

The idea is that people like broadcasting themselves. Even messages that could be relayed just as easily and efficiently through phone, text, or e-mail often make it to Twitter updates or Facebook posts instead. The service could also bring users who don’t regularly post on Facebook or Twitter into those communities, since all it requires is a phone, Thor says.

And there’s a business application of the technology that could have an even bigger impact, Thor says. Radio and TV stations could subscribe to the service to have listeners post voice recordings to their Twitter accounts, rather than using the traditional call-in techniques. Companies who monitor customer feedback and help lines via Twitter could also benefit from JawBite, he says. The firm is also developing the technology that relates to “personal productivity” functions, like e-mail and calendar updates.

JawBite is free to the individual consumer, because Thing5 plans to make the bulk of its revenue off the feature from enterprise-level users. The company is still pursuing its traditional telecom business, but it has high hopes for JawBite.

“The telecom side is still growing rapidly and will continue to be a large part of what we do,” Thor says. “[JawBite] has the potential on a per user basis to dwarf it, though. This is a one-to-many consumer product. Every person in our universe can use it. That’s the goal.”

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