Friday, March 4, 2011

Google to kill Gizmo5 on April 3, slamming the door on SIP interoperability?

[UPDATE: This adventure isn't over yet. It seems that a subset of SIP functionality is working right now.]

Yes, there are times when Google irritates me, too. I can hardly be considered a "fanboy". Today, they have done it again. I received an e-mail stating:
Gizmo5 is writing to let you know that we will no longer be providing service starting on April 3, 2011. A week from today, March 11, 2011, you will no longer be able to add credit to your account.

Although the standalone Gizmo5 client will no longer be available, we have since launched the ability to call phones from within Gmail at even more affordable rates.

If you purchased calling credit and have a balance remaining in your account, you can request a refund by logging in to http://my.gizmo5.com. If you are in the United States, you can instead choose to transfer your credit to a Google Voice account, so it can be used for calling from Google Voice or Gmail. If you don’t have a Google Voice account, please create one so that we can transfer your credit.

Please request a call credit transfer or refund by April 3, 2011. If you don't request a call credit transfer or refund by this date, we will automatically refund your remaining call credit via the payment method you originally used to purchase the credit. Note that if you paid via Moneybookers or if the credit card on file has expired, we will not be able to automatically refund your unused credit, so please log in to initiate the refund process.

I have had a Gizmo5 account for a while, and it has been useful to integrate with Google Voice because it provided three things Google Voice did not, and still does not as of today:
  1. Use of an industry-standard SIP protocol client (phone or softphone).
  2. Calling to SIP destinations.
  3. Forwarding of calls to SIP destinations, such as a soft-PBX or a VoIP phone service (without using up PSTN minutes at the VoIP provider).
I didn't list the bass-ackwards Skype forwarding "feature" as it's always been rather broken, but it's interesting to note that Google is becoming more like Skype by moving to a semi-proprietary protocol (libjingle) as the only way to use standalone clients (1).

Calling to SIP destinations (2) is most useful when making international calls, but not a big loss by killing Gizmo5; there are other SIP-only services available.

The big loss is the removal of forwarding to SIP destinations (3). Google Voice has yet to introduce a SIP calling scheme, so we've been forced to route calls GVoice -> Gizmo5 -> SIP for a while. Not a big deal once it's set up, but losing this functionality essentially slams the door on standard SIP-based VoIP interoperability with Google Voice. This is very disappointing.

For more than two years, many Google Voice users have been waiting for SIP interoperability (and that's just the threads in the first few pages of searching the Google Voice help forum for "SIP"), but no news has been forthcoming. For a little while, interoperability with receiving calls from SIP phones existed, but that was quickly shut down, ostensibly because the 4-digit voicemail PIN would be easy to machine-hack. And now, it will no longer be possible to send calls to SIP phones without routing the call through the PSTN (the key enabling feature of Gizmo5 routing).

Google Voice folks, you're dropping the ball by killing Gizmo5 without replacing its functionality. I hope I'll be seeing an announcement about using SIP at least for forwarding phones in the future...?

4 comments:

  1. For the record

    Troubleshooting: Compatibility with SIP services
    We currently only forward calls to Gizmo Sip Numbers. Learn how to add a Gizmo forwarding number.

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  2. You forget the call-in number service. I had a Chilean one for 4+ years and I just lost it today. My only solution was to purchase a Skype-in number, ie. go with the competitor company.

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  3. I took the announcement as a hint that Google will soon be offering VoIP for Google Voice accounts (hopefully SIP based).

    Maybe wishful thinking on my part, we'll see...

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  4. they very well may have bought it to shut it down. The gizmo5 integration was something google inherited from Grand Central who had already set it up before Google bought them to relabel it as google voice. Now people figure out they could use this to use the service without a phone. Next google was blocking calls to some of the high priced rural exchanges that used the very high fees to run 'free' conference lines and dial out service. This is against fcc regulations for a phone service. Google argued they are not one as they require a phone line to work. Then all of the sudden they buy gimzo5 and shut it to new accounts, to close that loophole. Now after a suitable wait, they finish closing it, hoping most forget the history to not make it too obvious

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