Last week a 10-year-old Silicon Valley company that specializes in the innards of fax machines changed its name -- and stock trading symbol -- from Jet Fax to eFax.com. The bet, begun last summer with some market research, is on a sort of fax version of popular e-mail services such as HotMail. Instead of a free e-mail address you get a free fax number. Mine is 630-604-0178. Send anything you like. I don't need to go sift through the office fax mess, and the number won't be busy when I'm online at home tying up the dataline. You won't even be wasting my paper or compromising my privacy -- within a minute or so of the completed fax transmission, eFax.com sends me the fax as an e-mail attachment that I can pick up from wherever I check my e-mail. There's a special eFax viewer for Windows users that's supposed to get the file size down (and also offers an encryption option), but I opted for the plain vanilla TIFF format because I mostly read my e-mail on a Mac. Guess what? It works. MORE>>
If the rule with Internet empire-building is audience -- not profits -- then what's next to give away after home pages, directories, e-mail, chat, greeting cards and even magazine content? How about a free fax number?