Google offers voice-tweeting service for Egyptians

Voicemail left by Egyptians will land on a Web page that will then link to a Twitter message posted by Google

SayNow may be better known for helping the Jonas Brothers and the NBA leave short voicemail messages for their fans, but on Monday it found another purpose: helping Egyptians communicate with the rest of the world.

Google, which purchased SayNow just last week, has hacked together a "speak-to-tweet service" for Egyptians who still have working telephones but who can't connect with Twitter because ISPs in the country were ordered to disconnect from the Internet. The last remaining major ISP (Internet service provider), Noor Group, abruptly disconnected its service on Monday.

"[A]nyone can tweet by simply leaving a voicemail on one of these international phone numbers ... and the service will instantly tweet the message using the hashtag #egypt," Google said in a blog posting. "No Internet connection is required."

The speak-to-tweet service automatically puts the voicemail on a Web page that is then linked in a Twitter message posted to Google's Speak2tweet Twitter account.

By Monday afternoon Pacific Time, the service was posting new Twitter messages every few minutes -- many of them in Arabic -- including commentary and reports from Egypt.

It's one of several alternative techniques that have been set up to keep Egyptians connected as people take to the streets to call for democratic reforms to the unpopular government of President Hosni Mubarak. Other service providers have set up free international Internet dial-up numbers, and even harnessed ham radio communications systems for Egyptians.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

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