The Critical 'I'

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Thursday, September 18, 2003

Even though the direct-connect talk feature has been around for years through Nextel's phones/service, it's just now spreading to other wireless providers. Verizon Wireless is getting ready to launch their version, and you can expect a pervasive ad campaign to announce it.

The catch with direct-connect (or push-to-talk, as it's known overseas) is that it works only between phones on the same wireless service. So you can't use it to contact your pal on a Nextel phone if you're on Verizon. Very similar to the way instant messaging is now set up.

In response to this conundrum, Fastchat offers up its service, which replicates push-to-talk through wireless Internet connection. This makes it possible to hook up this way with others regardless of service providers or phone models, gives you a global reach (taking into account the Web's global structure), and even lets you archive conversations. The AP's Jason Straziuso took it for a test drive, and found that after a little getting used to, it works splendidly.