WebRTC Expert Feature

February 20, 2013

When WebRTC Rules Will the Dial Pad Disappear?

The debate over whether phone numbers survive is often a fun discussion. Many SIM P advocates wanted to abandon the phone number as soon as possible so as to leave the POTS world behind and remain as an Internet strategy. Also, instant messenger platforms seem to make the buddy list another possibility for connecting. Certainly Skype has proven that voice calls can be made without numbers, even though the money is in the connection to the PSTN.

As is typical with any standard, we are again looking at groups that have different agendas.   Many companies are just grateful to have a solution that traverses the NAT and want nothing more than to have an extension of the extension for the work at home types.

Others have inbound models for call centers that after the call comes in, has a chance for analytics to route calls based on skill sets and profiles. The Phone number in this case can become very optional, although most solutions will offer a call button that may indeed, give the sound of a ring to make it sound familiar (as has been done with VoIP handsets).

And of course there are the buddy list strategies that include using your address book or your instant messenger whenever you want to connect with contacts.

However, this also shows the problem of migration and the lack of control we have in managing identity.

Here are some problems I see today and places I would like to see WebRTC implementations.


Address book bloat. Every smart hone today I believe is too smart for its own address book. The systems ask you if you want to include your friends from Facebook, and you don’t think about it, and all of a sudden you have doubled the names in your log, but often without an actual phone number to call them with, so the address book is of little use.   


The things I would like to see is a regression solution to undo this mistake for those of us who instantly regret pressing the “Connect” button, or a better filter that only attaches the Facebook friends that have numbers already on our phone. If the Facebook IM client is going to include voice that would be fine as well, although I believe that would need a voice recorder, since I am not sure real time is that important with Facebook.

 The second Issue I would like to see addressed is identity.


Caller No ID. Skype likes to send Caller ID on the phone network like “12345” or “00000” or “unknown”. The cable operators often come across the network as “Private Number”. To me these are unacceptable. I admit that anonymous dialing has value for those in rough or private situations, but deciding to take the call for those of us who are not, becomes a Boolean “Yes” or “No” as opposed to having a filter.


Callwave, is one company with a patent I love (and would like to license) which makes it possible to listen and intercept the caller after they start to speak. One thing that would make sense to me is to be able to identify folks that call via these IDs. So rather than rejecting off hand I can think about the potential caller.

The reality is that WebRTC has a big opportunity to explode the number of identities we share. It could very well be that every browser driver implementation has a strategy to connect via their own IDs. That can work in a closed environment, but makes the first discovery call harder, in my opinion.

The bottom line is that the phone number is losing relevance but is an identifier that has a unique quality. If we are open to sharing it, in the end, it may make the actual number more valuable than the call. I am hoping that mapping to numbers will be considered useful, but I’m not so sure WebRTC implementers are on the same page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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