A new internet-based voice messaging system called RocketTalk could speak volumes for a busy school leader like you–or anyone seeking a more personal way to communicate online. According to RocketTalk Inc., based in Fullerton, Calif., its new system with downloadable software is the first and only free online voice messaging product.

RocketTalk works much like traditional eMail, but instead of typing a message, the user records the message in his or her own voice, leading to a faster, more effective, and more personal way of communicating ideas.

“Talking is much faster than typing for most of us, and verbal messages are much better at conveying the full intent and emotional content of the speaker’s message,” said RocketTalk president Jeff Weiner.

For registered users, the free downloadable software provides recording, compression, addressing, and send/receive functions.

The product allows users to send messages to other registered users, or as an attachment to most eMail accounts. When going to a nonregistered user, the messages are sent along with a small downloadable utility called Rocket Player, which decompresses and plays the message on any sound-enabled computer.

To create, send, and listen to voice messages, RocketTalk requires a computer–either a desktop or laptop–with a sound card, speakers, mouse, microphone, and internet connection. The software and utility were initially released for use with Windows 95, 98, or NT operating systems, but Evelyn Miller, director of marketing for RocketTalk, said the start-up company is working to develop applications for other operating systems as well, with Macintosh being one of the firm’s top priorities.

The product comes with a composition panel with buttons for recording, playback, addressing, and sending; an inbox with subject, date, and time stamping, as well as reply/forward options; a contact list with search capabilities; and a user profile for relaying personal information to other users when desired. A range of options for privacy and availability also is available.

RocketTalk messages are routed through a central server. The system sends and receives messages in the background, eliminating long waits as messages download. A compression algorithm also works to keeps message file sizes small–about 35K for a 10-second message, compared to 220K for a text message of comparable length. This means users can continue using other internet functions with no loss of speed as their messages download, RocketTalk said.

According to the company, RocketTalk has been designed for ease of use and is set up with features that should be familiar to anyone who uses eMail for text messages. The company said it has set up an automatic updating system that will download new versions of the software as they become available.

RocketTalk voice messaging is and will continue to be free to members of the internet community, the company said. The service is supported by small advertisements and co-branding located in various areas of the RocketTalk user interface.

Miller said advertisements are contained within RocketTalk’s various screen displays. There are no annoying pop-up ads, though click-through ads are being considered, she said.

Released in late February, the software was used in more than 45 countries within its first two weeks of availability, RocketTalk said. During the same period, RocketTalk delivered more than 20,000 user messages, and people were downloading the software once every 30 seconds, the company said.

As for future applications, Miller said, the firm will be customer-driven and decisions will be based on user feedback.