"Certainly we've seen a lot of goods being sold over the Internet. But services--the things we have to say, all the things that comprise the service economy--we haven't seen online," said Scott Faber, Ingenio co-founder and general manager of the new division, dubbed Ether.
Ether allows any Web site publisher, for free, to place an HTML button on their site which will allow their readers or customers to place a billed call to them. The number on the site is an Ether-provided 888-number, and forwards to the publisher's own phone number only after the user has agreed to pay the set rate.
According to Faber, the protection of the user's actual phone number allows the personal phone line to become an additional online marketing channel for service providers. "These are marketing channels that haven't existed before," he said. "With these protections, they can become a marketing channel, because of the protections."
Publishers can set any rate for their calls, and Ether takes a 15 percent commission, and pays all credit card processing and long-distance fees. In addition to fees, publishers can set the hours and days on which they can be called, and to what numbers the calls are forwarded.
The service, which was in closed beta since February 2006, is now available to any interested publisher.