The software is an expansion of HearMe's VoicePresence software, according to Jeremy Verba, president and chief operating officer of HearMe, formerly known as Mpath Interactive. Users can download the software from http://www.download.com/ and, with a few mouse clicks, participate in real-time voice conversations using their computer microphones and speakers, according to Verba.
"The voice quality is good at 28.8 (Kbps) and it's really good at 56 (Kbps)," Verba said. "At consumer speeds, this works very well. This is not just a T1 experience."
Though 50 per cent of HearMe's revenue comes from the sale and licensing of its technology, the company did not strike a deal with ICQ owner AOL to deliver the technology to ICQ users. The software is available for free to non-ICQ users as well, Verba said.
"We're doing this to accelerate live voice as part of the infrastructure of the Web," Verba said.
HearMe may also profit if the free software sparks interest from business users, who might be persuaded to pay for a "more robust" version, according to Verba. There will be no difference in voice quality between the software offered to free and paying customers, he maintained, but some users may be willing to pay for the ability to monitor voice chat or host sessions in a certain way, Verba added.
HearMe is designed to work with browsers from AOL's Netscape Communications unit and Microsoft, running on Windows 95, 98 or NT systems, the company said.