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An Overview of Google Voice
Google's powerful online voicemail and call management platform, Google Voice, allows users to route one number to more than one phone. Additional features of Google Voice include call screening, voicemail to text transcription, SMS integration, and email notifications. Google Voice users can also make calls from their Google Voice number through an integrated call setup feature.
The voicemail features of Google Voice can also serve as a substitute for a cellular provider's voice mail, allowing multiple voice mail messages based on contact or group.
Recently, Google introduced Google Voice calling from within Gmail, an option that appears to many as a preemptive strike against Skype, the leading online calling provider, prior to its Initial Public Offering (IPO).
Voice calling from within Gmail is free for 2010, with many expecting a fee structure to come into play in 2011. Gmail users can use the Google Voice calling feature without having a Google Voice account configured.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ZyMOS-Bot
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The Power of a Google API
The powerful features of Google Voice, and the way it integrates with email and text messaging, make it appealing to developers who would like to build automated connectivity to Google Voice functions from within their code. Traditionally, software providers from United Parcel Service (UPS) to PayPal offer developers an Application Programming Interface (API) that provides standard and authorized ways to interact with them through a third party application.
Although many people have anticipated the release of the Google Voice API, little is known about its status. Details as to whether the API will be free, whether it will work only with the Google Voice for business, and others remain obscure as well as the extent of the functionality that will be offered to developers.
With an official Google Voice API, developers could create a variety of CRM, calendar, email, personal management, and other programs that would programmatically access Google Voice features.
Even though Google has not cooperated with the public in regards to the Google Voice, developers still have options to build programs that access Google Voice.
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Google-voice-java is an unofficial Google Voice API that allows programmers to integrate SMS services, placing calls, and checking/accessing voicemail messages. Other functions allows the programmatic enabling and disabling of the Google Voice service for various phone numbers, do not disturb, and accessing phone contacts by group. Through this API you can even get information about missed calls, placed calls, and spam calls.
An online wiki documents the API calls available through Google-Voice-Java that provides examples and instructions for using Google Voice features through Java. The Google voice java API is available as a free download from code.google.com.
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An effort that actually predates Google-Voice-Java is another Google Voice API called Pygooglevoice. This API uses Python to bind to Google Voice, giving it an amazing ability to tie Google Voice features into Python applications. Using this API, developers can browse folders inside Google Voice accounts, download and sync voicemail messages and recorded calls, and send/receive calls. It also gives programmers access to SMS functions.
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Google Voice API & Legal Issues
Right now Google is mum on any availability of an official API for Google Voice, although many believe that it will become available to developers in the Google Apps Marketplace with special terms for commercial use.
The typical Google Voice subscriber agreement forbids the use of Google Voice for any purpose other than personal use and requires that phone numbers associated with Google Voice accounts be under the control of the subscriber. This means that even if you use Google-Voice-Java, Pygooglevoice, or any other unofficial Google Voice API, you have limited options for using them for use in the real world without risking a confrontation with Google.