Telefónica Digital buys WebRTC and video chat expert Tokbox

Telefónica Digital has acquired San Francisco-based real-time communications specialist Tokbox and now aims to bring the startup’s video chops to its own BlueVia platform, eventually offering developers access to voice and video communication as well as SMS and billing all out of one hand. Tokbox CEO Ian Small told me during a phone conversation Wednesday that the acquisition is a good fit because Telefónica is looking to be more than just a traditional telco giant in a world where communication is changing rapidly. “It’s not just about the phone anymore,” he said. “It’s about the app on your iPad.”

Neither party would disclose financial details of the transaction, but Tracy Isacke, head of investments for Telefónica Digital, told me that the intention is to keep Tokbox running as a wholly owned subsidiary out of its San Francisco office space. The entire Tokbox team of around 35 will stay on board after the transaction.

Tokbox initially started out as a consumer video chat startup, but changed course two years ago to build out its Opentok platform, which enables developers to add video chat services to their own applications. Telefónica Digital has had a similar product in its own BlueVia platform, with a focus on telco services like voice and SMS, and Small went as far as calling it the “alter ego” of Opentok. Both teams will now start to bring these efforts together, but Small promised that existing Opentok developers will continue to be able to use the company’s services in their apps.

Tokbox has been an early champion of WebRTC, the effort to add voice and video real-time communications to the browser without the need for any plug-ins, and was one of the first to actually launch a WebRTC implementation. “Our leadership in the WebRTC space is one of the things that has attracted Telefónica to us,” Small told me.

Image courtesy of Flickr user  Tsahi Levent-Levi.