If like me you’re thinking “Lycos is still around??”, don’t feel bad. They haven’t done much of anything noteworthy in quite some time, and clearly the web search business they started out in has been dominated by other players. They’ve morphed into a portal-play, and today have released a beta version of their new softphone product called Lycos Phone.
The software for Lycos Phone was developed by India-based Global 7, and they have an exclusive 3-year deal so that the softphone software won’t be showing up anywhere else besides Lycos. The software does include a lot of bells and whistles beyond the standard phone features like Follow-Me service, faxes to email, voice mail to email, and a range of multimedia options, but probably the most interesting thing Lycos is offering is unlimited free incoming calls (along with a free phone number). There are also very inexpensive outbound calling plans, especially if you are willing to accept and view ads in the phone software.
Two oppposing takes on the new service have been voiced today by Tom Keating, who likes the package, and Russell Shaw, who’ll take a pass on it. Actually, Tom has toned down his initial glowing review (Lycos Phone blows away Skype and Yahoo Messenger?) after he realized that they weren’t offering purely free outbound PSTN calling too, which was his intitial impression. I’m with Russell on this one though, I don’t want ads incorporated into my phone experience, especially streaming media distractions, and I’m willing to pay (a little anyway) for systems that don’t inflict that on me.