Lycos Intros Entertainment- and Ad-Enabled Free VoIP

As Skype, Yahoo and others prepare to battle for VoIP users, Lycos is throwing its hat in the ring with a product that bundles low-cost and free ad-supported dialing with rich media entertainment content. The portal partnered with India-based Globe 7 to provide the technology.

The softphone application, which includes PC-to-PC calling and incoming calls from phones, is free, as is audio and video content. But after users go through an initial free 100 minutes of PC-to-phone calls, they must pay or earn credits through a lead-generation program. Users can ask for information from or sign up for service from a number of sponsors to earn credits in increments of $1, $2, $5, $10, $15 and $20. There are also offers specific to U.K.-based and international users. Lycos Phone also carries IAB standard ads.

“Globe 7 and Lycos receive a bounty for signing up a lead,” said Lycos COO Brian Kalinowski. “We share revenue with the lead generations, and we return that back to the user for long distance dialing and things they need to pay for to use the system.”

Lycos has five years of experience generating leads through its GetRelevant property, according to Kalinowski.

In addition to the voice services, the softphone is built with video calling and instant messaging capabilities. It also has an on-demand and streaming video player and an MP3 player. Content will include movie trailers and other on-demand video, including IP broadcasting from a number of global broadcast channels, including Bloomberg, Reuters and BYU Television.

“It is an interesting hybrid in that it is part softphone and part media player,” Gartner Group Research VP Allen Weiner told ClickZ News. “I think it is an interesting metaphor when you look at the physical world and cell phones.”

The package could potentially become a sticky branding vehicle for Lycos. “It is a fascinating Trojan horse,” said Weiner. “Needless to say Lycos is interested in doing anything it can to bring back the luster to the brand from earlier days of the Internet. It’s an interesting way of getting people hooked and getting them to try the service.”

Globe7, who built the software application, is considered by Lycos to be a partner rather than a technology provider. Lycos has a three-year exclusive on the player though Globe7 can offer similar packages to non-competing companies.

The softphone is available from Lycos and also directly through Globe7. Lycos expects to market the application on its network to its 24.6 million users. Lycos also plans to run a marketing promotion over the first 60 days the services is available.

The portal sees this offering as a way to allow users to gain access to voice, multimedia and Web content without being tethered to a browser. “It provides people with a player that has more than one reason to open, and more than one reason to use,” said Kalinowski. “It really gives people more reason to keep this open other than to make a phone call.”

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