Ina Fried

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Jibe Picks Up $8.3 Million From Vodafone and MTI to Help Build Carrier-Quality Messaging Into Apps

Jibe Mobile is betting that one of the biggest app categories — mobile video chat — is soon to become a feature of other apps.

The days of old-school calling or texting someone — even on a cellphone — are coming to an end, says Jibe Mobile CEO Amir Sarhangi.

“You don’t necessarily pick up the phone,” said Sarhangi. “In a lot of cases people are really communicating through applications.”

The company has a bold plan to try to convince developers to use Jibe as a means for adding video chat into their own applications.

On Tuesday night the company is announcing it has picked up $8.3 million in funding from European carrier Vodafone and Japanese gamemaker MTI. While Jibe’s service isn’t dependent on carrier support, it can work with a new generation of carrier-supported service known as RCS, or Rich Communication Services. In addition to being an investor, Jibe says Vodafone has been an early partner in its efforts.

Carriers around the globe have been exploring RCS, now known by the brand name Joyn, for years as a way to offer interoperable services beyond text and MMS, though the effort has proved slow and challenging. Jibe hopes its service, which supports but doesn’t require Joyn, can help that effort break through some chicken-and-egg issues.

The company is working with about 500 developers. A few Android demo apps are already in the Google Play store, with more Jibe-powered apps expected to hit early next year, Sarhangi said.

Jibe isn’t the only company that sees a future in shifting communications into the app. Rebtel, which has millions of users of its messaging apps, announced on Tuesday that it will offer programming hooks to let other developers include its messaging capabilities in their apps. Twilio has long focused on this area, particularly when it comes to adding voice and text to apps.

Jibe isn’t limiting its service to just video and voice, noting that it can also be used for other things such as real-time gaming. In one demo, the company shows how two players could play air hockey — a game that doesn’t forgive much lag time — on separate phones.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik