Google Voice Free for All, No Invitation Necessary

Last Updated Jun 23, 2010 10:33 AM EDT

No longer a members-only club, Google Voice is finally open to all comers.

Until yesterday, signing up for the telephony-management service required an invitation -- meaning you had to know someone who already had a Google Voice account.

Now, just head to Google Voice, sign in with your existing Google/Gmail account, and you're off to the races.

Still not sure what Google Voice is or why you need it? Here's a video that explains it all in just 92 seconds:

When signing up, the big question is whether to get a new number (your "number for life" in GV-speak) or keep your existing one. The latter option is certainly more convenient, but it limits you to a subset of GV features.

By the way, if you're looking for a more business-oriented solution, check out Phonebooth. It's a lot like Google Voice, but with handy extras like an auto-attendant and a click-to-call widget for your Web site.

If you're already a GV user, hit the comments and tell us what you like, what you don't like, and whether you think it represents the future of telephony. (My take: it just might.)

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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.