Saturday, August 15, 2009

Google Voice and you

With so much news lately about Google Voice, those who haven't kept up on every tiny development have found themselves lost. What exactly is Google Voice? Is it a phone redirecting service? VoIP? Voicemail? All of the above? None of the above? Even some of our staff members are confused about what Google Voice offers and why people would want to use it, so we thought it would be helpful to offer a guide to Google Voice for those just tuning in.

Google Voice originated as GrandCentral, an independent company that hit the scene in 2005. GrandCentral allowed users to register a new phone number and direct it to ring multiple phones; it could also collect messages and act as your personal switchboard operator. This sounds boring on the surface, but it provided a number of cool features, such as the ability to listen in on voicemail messages as they were being left or to tell a specific number that your phone number is no longer connected (great for stalkers and crazed PR people, who are kind of like stalkers). Google acquired GrandCentral in 2007, and promptly sat on the project for nearly two years before it relaunched the service as Google Voice in March of 2009.

Google didn't just take GrandCentral and slap a colorful logo on it, though. The search giant made a number of improvements on the already nifty service, and it has become a must-have for the handful of early adopters who were lucky enough to get in either as a grandfathered GrandCentral user or through an invite. Let's look at what you can get out of the (currently) free service.

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