Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
The Internet

Phone Numbers Instead of URLs? 158

December writes "This story says Australian company Nascomms claims to be the first in the world to go online with numeric addressing [CT:TCP/IP uses numbers too, just not ones with area code ;)], in which telephone numbers are used in replace of the ubiquitous dot-com address. Interesting idea, but in the business case, I could much more easily guess then figuring out their phone number."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Phone Numbers Instead of URLs?

Comments Filter:
  • has been around for a while now. That said, it's based in Cambridge, UK and the only way I've heard it advertised so far is on the local radio...
  • I saw that and though - that just ain't right.

    Perhaps now movies will have to make sure they don't show a real IP address or hostname, like the 555 numbers on all the tv shows.
  • I though about that - then I though even better would be

    All the joe wannabes would go home saying "Hey honey...look, I can ping that site from that movie."
  • (hangs head in shame of being the same species as Nascomms' executives)
    I think I'm going to go kill myself now.

    No, wait. I'll kill their VCs, then kill the patent office folks, *then* kill myself. If I'm going out, I might as well smite some evil along the way.
  • Uh-huh. I hope to god Nascomms doesn't try to patent this.
  • by aphr0 ( 7423 )
    Check your damn links [].
  • "Some analysts have questioned the value of a mass-market encryption product, suggesting that the odds of an email message being intercepted are infinitely smaller than the danger of compromising sensitive data stored on a lost computer or on a hacked Web server."

    Big Brother locates evil citizen's SMTP & Server server. Big Brother points gun to server admins. Server admins give Big Brother evil citizen's e-mails.
  • Here [] Also another interesting hit I came up with was a article about a proposed .geo domain [] based on gridding the world and using those as domains...
  • by rde ( 17364 )
    I sneer at Nascomms, and fart in their general direction. Most of the reasons have been outlined already, so I'll make this comment more general in its scope.
    The problem with this, as with myriad other 'solutions', is that it assumes that anything is better than IP4 and DNS. 'Bollocks' I say. If people wanted numeric addresses IP4/6 is perfectly suitable; it's as easy to remember and IP address as it is a phone number. However, people don't want numbers; they want something they can remember.

    And if this is aimed at eliminating cybersquatting, what's going to happen when someone gets the phone number 7-11-7-11? How big a fight over 69-69-69 are we going to see among porn sites?

    To sum up: half-arsed doesn't even begin to describe this idea.
  • That's no real good idea, because one server with one IP address can host many, many virtual webservers.

    Names can be used to differentiate between (vrtual) webservers, while IP numbers can't.
  • That's just a way to display it easily for those puny humans. An ip is a number between 0 and 4294967296 (inclusive)
  • Doh! Thinko. Thnx.
  • "We expect that figure to grow incredulously over the next few months," Nacomms general manager Siobhan Dooley told ZDNet.

    Silly Aussie. It's really too bad somebody with a great name like "Siobhan" said something so bizarre and stupid.

    Skeptical; disbelieving: incredulous of stories about flying saucers.
    Expressive of disbelief: an incredulous stare.

    So the figure is going to grow in such a manner that it can't believe itself. Wow. English is fun.
  • Except that with cell phones that functionality changes a bit. Figure out how to power on this model of phone. Oh, type is some security code. Dial the phone number. Is it calling? No. OK now what button do I push on this phone to make it dial. OK, Send, Talk, Pound?
    It's not hard to use a cell phone, even someone else's, but it is hardly standard.
  • I agree that the proposition is completely backwards: we should be replacing phone numbers with urls, and not the ohter way around...

    how about
    "phone:// "

    ok. har har.

    Apparently they were thinking about portable phones and w@p services. Their point was that it is easier to tap numbers on a phone than words. which is true. but i think phones will evolve a bit in the next few microseconds to make such an idea unnecessary.

    IMHO, if you have screen realestate big enough to comfortably browse for information, there is a way to fit some kind of intelligent input system that would make it easy to type, at least an URL.

    T9 software is already pretty neat, and things will get better.

    if you are interested in typing efficiently in small spaces:

    T9 []

    FITALY []

    BAT []

    FAQ []

    so, i don't think alternative URL systems are necessary. rethinking cellphone input is, however.

    adrien cater []

  • This idea of using an E.164 address instead of a cryptic and easy to forget name like has some merit. There is a patent in there somewhere, I know it.
  • Don't you think that all this hype around DNS nowadays show that DNS maybe isn't the best solution? Or at least not the way we use it today, with the few top-level domains...

    There are some standard answers to this that
    we've heard a lot recently:

    1) Get rid of top-level domains altogether

    Sure... But this won't make the battle for domains
    go away, right? Rather make it tougher.

    2) Make use of higher-level domains more extensively

    Great idea, but we'll never convince corporations. If they come up with a great product/service/whatever they will want the domain-name for that as well as for their company, and a dozen more...

    3) Make the top-level domains completely free

    Like alternative number one, right? Only shift the fight one step to the rigth.

    4) And so on...

    What I would like to know is if someone is thinking of alternative ways to resolve names to addresses. No, I don't mean the alternative ("rouge") DNS:es, but completely new ways! Decentralized preferrably. Built around mechanisms similar to Freenet perhaps?

  • So when I relocate and get a new number, or when the telco changes it for me (3 times in the last 5 years I think for some parts of the UK), what then?

    The whole idea is so ludicrously crap it's actually quite funny! It's really just another dereference on top of DNS, so where we now have DNS->IP, one of these addresses is NUMBER->DNS->IP. Now how pointless is that?
  • There were a few cases of late where people were actually "typosquatting" on phone numbers like 1-800-FL0WERS (note the zero) and 1-800-MATRESS. You'd think that people could learn to spell seven-letter words correctly, but I guess you can never underestimate the stupidity of the American consumer base...
  • Um, no. The Joe Wannabes would go home saying "What the hell is all that hacker crap? Give me a beer, I'm watching some football, bitch." I mean, no Joe Wannabe is going to know what ping is.
  • While many companies may have similar names, but dissimilar URL's, finding them online can be hard. If you have a brochure or manual with a service phone number (or any number, really), you just punch that in on the address line and viola!

    OK, and if you had the brochure/manual handy, what is stopping you from punching in the web address from it?

  • Doesn't this idea sound like something a Dilbert PHB would say? "Hey, I have an idea! Let's refer to web pages by number instead of by name!", to which the only response is "Must control...raging...fist...of death!".

    SecretAsianMan (54.5% Slashdot pure)
  • Why would we revert and use IP numbers. The current system in place was made so that we DON'T have to use numbers when we want to connect to a computer on the net. Hrmmm wonder what they were thinking.
  • First we picked up the earpiece and said, "Operator, connect me with Hilltop 6-2472." Then we had dials, so we could dial HI6-2472 ourselves. Then someone realized that letters were no easier to remember than numbers, so we went to seven digits. Somewhere around that time is when people thought of sticking the name of their business in the 800 numbers. As for the Internet, there were names early on, back in .arpa days. First there was a manually updated hosts file on every machine (!), then someone gave birth to DNS. The WWW had nothing to do with it.
  • A good phone service would be a voice recognition which lets me say in effect that I want to talk to Joe Blow in Detroit.

    Some mobile phones allow you to do this with numbers in their internal phonebook.

    I had a friend who's office's voicemail system worked this way too. You would say "Victor Thompson" and it would figure out whose mailbox to use. He told me that some of his coworkers (with strangely spelled names) you had to guess a few times before you pronounced it the way it through. One guy nobody ever figured out how to say it right. (You could always fall back on some kind of numeric addressing scheme (like spell the name using the keypad, I'd guess))
  • Easy. It's 1-800-TOYOTA-1
  • Preaching to the choir here, but using an analogy:
    There is a reason assembly language programmers prefer to use mnemonics instead of memorizing hex values (while memorizing the 6502 or 80386 opcodes is the hallmark of a true comp sci geek ;-) - it's because symbolic names are a lot easier to remember! Heck, it's the reason we use higher level languages ... it's much easier to say angle = dot( vec_a, vec_b ) then some long stream of bin/hex digits.

    One will notice the phone numbers are broken down into small numbers that we can "chunk" quite nicely: 3 digits, 3 digits, 4 digits

    Most sane people don't memorize the first X digits of pi, we compress it down into one symbol. Same for any other "constant."

    Notice how we use url's to do the same thing. One domain name := One long ip address.

  • Even better, write a whole service for it, call it "Damned Numbers Service", or DNS for short, and...wait, nevermind. I see someone has done it. Sorry!
  • Considering future replacement of the phone system by Voice over IP, it would be better to replace phone numbers by IP addresses instead (and then use IP addresses instead of domain names and just abolish DNS). Maybe I should patent that idea.

    Seriously, using numbers instead of names is backwards and has been made outdated when DNS was invented long ago.
  • And how many companies try to get a phone number that spells out their name using the letters on each button?

    I personally find this a pain, as it is easier for me to dial a number than the letters.
  • I submitted this story as well, yet it got rejected. I'm not trying to bitch or moan or whine here, but for purposes future reference, what sets submissions apart? Possibly he submitted it before me (my assumption), but I dunno. Anyone got any tips here?

  • by Lxy ( 80823 )
    First of all, fix that link. I know it's a sign of intelligence to make sure only the smart ones can read the article but some people on /. aren't that bright.

    From the aricle: Web users just need to plug in the ISD and regional code, followed by the phone number of a company with a registered numeric address, and its Web page will be brought up. Oh, is that all? So I just have to figure out where the server is located that I'm connecting too, then I just have to find the phone number. Go to Oh wait a sec, .com's don't exist. Now I have to find the phone number for Qwestdex, but how do I find it on the internet if I don't know where to look in the first place?

    It was said before, but it needs to be restated. There are these numerical thingies called IP addresses. They're 32 bits long and every server on the internet has a unique one. Hmm... sounds like what they're proposing has already been done. It's a lot easier to find than to try and remember I think they're trying to re-invent the wheel, but it's looking more like a Firestone :-)

    "You'll die up there son, just like I did!" - Abe Simpson
  • Why would I want everyone who visits my homepage to know my phone number?
  • I'd much rather have a small keyboard on my phone and type in a url or IP to ring someone rather than have to remember their area code (ha!) and phone number - phone numbers are obsolete. You type them into the config once and forget em :-) Does anyone still call friends anymore? Or just ICQ?
  • I think this would suffice, Address Allocatioin for Private Internets []



  • First we had phone numbers. Then we invented Vanity numbers because 1800-NUMBERS is just better to remember than 1800-686-2377. Then the WWW allowed us to use convienient names such as, and to make it even easier things like internet keywords came up because some URLs still were hard to remember. So for what reason should we ever step back to using numbers again? Any rational explanation?

    Hmm well, I'll surely enjoy people trying to remember my IPv6 address in a couple of years - come visit me at 12FB:8A6F:73E4:55E4:DEAD:C0DE ... maybe I'll make it sooo much easier to remember my site address by giving them ... sounds good...

  • ...about a week ago [] in the story about new gTLDs. (I thought it was a silly idea then, though, and I still do.)


  • It seems to me that this company completely missed the point of how to integrate phones and the web -- which IMHO is to map the telephone number to the web site using the phone as a browser. Emerging standards such as VoiceXML (and MS's own WTE "standard"), platforms such as WebSphere's Voice SDK, and service providers like Voxeo all make it easy to map a phone number to a URL using the telephone as the browser. At the risk of being self-serving, my article on this went up today on /voxeo.html Bottom Line: Phone numbers are for dialing; web addresses are for surfing.
  • I would hope the patent offices would refuse this patent, based on the prior work of many online phone books where you can enter a phone number and get info on businesses, including their web page.

    This is far from a new idea.

  • Ether that or the company could just publish thier server's IP address.
  • Phone numbers have far less intrinsic meaning than URLs, and thus are much harder for people to look up and remember. They're a concession to the limitations of 19th-century telephone technology.

    The lack of semantic information in phone numbers has very real implications. For example, it's easy to distinguish between and because of the semantic information in each URL, but if the Sex Shoppe's phone number is 555-1234 and the phone number of Holy Angels Church is 555-1235, there's nothing in the phone number to tell you that the number you are about to dial to book your wedding, will, because of a single-digit transcription error, result in a rather interesting conversation with somebody whose expertise is likely to be far more useful during the honeymoon than during the ceremony.

  • Ca. 1968, Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress had a (video)phone system where the "phone numbers" are ten-character alphabetic strings. Approximate quote: "Pay minimum, get random letters. Pay a little more, get spell-sound, easy to remember. Pay premium, get your business name, good advertising."

    Works for me! It would put a quick stop to this "new area code" nonsense, too, given 26^10 possible "numbers" in the identifier space.
    (Since /. just had a review of his Stranger In a Strange Land, it seems valid to bring it up here.)

  • It's really very unhealthy to be concerned about how people think of an IPv4 address. You should prefer to smack yourself in the head with a bat.

    "Don't trolls get tired?"
  • Here's [] the link (no, it's not goatsex :). This seems kind of going backward - I mean the whole idea re fqdn is for us humans to not have to deal w/ numbers, yes?
  • I remember reading about an ambicious company in UK, I think, that was trying to get the ".1" TLD or some short text equivalent (.phone, perhaps), such that they could then implement a phone number-to-IP system for when web-enabled devices are on line. For example, a phone of 1-630-555-1234 would have been at the IP Sure, it's not necessarily easy to remember such, but as they claimed, their DNS would have easily routed such a request faster than other methods (such as a phone-to-uniqId-to-ip system).

  • ...but not for anyone else. This is one of the stupidest ideas I have heard in a while. It reminds of when people had email addresses from prodigy that looked like "". It looks like a squirrel ran over the keyboard. The simple truth is that people remember names better than numbers.

    I have a theory that even phone numbers will go to the wayside in the 5-10 year range. Seriously, why should I have to remember Joe Blow's phone number? A good phone service would be a voice recognition which lets me say in effect that I want to talk to Joe Blow in Detroit. The system then would do the dirty work of resolving this into a phone number. Just as we think it is antiquated how our grandparents had to ask an operator to connect the wires to make a call, or use a party line, I believe remembering phone numbers will a thing of the past in the near future.

    I'm rambling just a little, but the point is that the future involves letting machines do what they do well... dealing with number. Let us humans do what we do well, interconnnecting concepts. Names have better hinges to concepts than numbers for most of us.

  • the phone is the ideal standard for usability

    The book "The design of everyday things" talks a bit against this.

    Do you know how to transfer a call to another phone? Do you know how to do it if you are not in your company system?
    What are # and * for?

    The basic stuff can seem easy but it may get very hard.
  • like 1-900-ENCOEUR for example.
    If you want to find good "name" for your telephone number, try [] it's pretty funny and works well.

  • First of all, by the time I'd loaded the page, I'd already mentally composed the obligatory joke about how maybe this could be supplemented by a global directory system that would associate names with the numbers, so you wouldn't have to remember them; it could even be built into the applications, so you would just type the name and have it automatically look up the number... but I see it's been done too many times already.

    Your first point (Local businesses that just want to use their website to advertise a storefront rather than be an e-business) is interesting, though, in that this problem has been one of my biggest gripes all along. Most of us seem to agree that DNS is suffering under the "pollution" of the "com" TLD, which is even spilling over into "org" and "net". I think a large part of the problem is the fact that these global domains flatten everything into a single namespace, which is ironic since DNS' original solution to the namespace problem was to make it hierarchical.

    If a local business just wants to advertise in its area, why should it have to have a unique name in a flat global namespace? It then has to hope that its name has not been "taken" by a big company, a more-ambitious startup, another local business somewhere else, a porn site, etc. This leads to the crowdedness which has given us the "" domain names. It's bad enough with all the startups, but at least the local businesses shouldn't have to be in the same fray -- after all, it's okay if another small business with the same name exists somewhere far away, until now, that is.

    Even among the startups, there are lots that are geographic-region-specific -- they even specifically advertise the fact that they concentrate their service in that area (supposedly making it better than the others whose efforts are spread so much thinner). And yet, they use the same global namespace, making their names even messier by mushing the region in. I've lived here all my life, but I'm not arrogant enough to think that the San Francisco Bay Area is the only area in the world near a bay who residents call it "the Bay Area", and yet we have "".

    I've always thought we should use the existing country and region domains for things that are region-specific. Then, "" could be "", "" could be "", and a little mom-and-pop store in Berkeley could be "" or "" without having to worry about collisions with "", etc. The argument is, of course, that people have been conditioned to think that "website" is synonymous with "something dot com", and would be afraid of anything with more than one dot. I don't know that that's true, though: people can understand phone numbers with area codes, postal addresses with ZIP codes, etc., and I think most would automatically recognize their region code as being analogous, so if local sites advertised with it, it would begin to seem natural. For some reason, though, they are not popular. What makes this phone-number thing interesting is that it puts a novel spin on the idea, which could poularize it, even though it's not really any better.

    David Gould
  • Your IP address would change because of an area code split?
  • There's a Cambridge (UK) company called thats been doing this for a while. Its the silliest idea I've ever heard of. Have a system for translating names to numbers and then layer a system for translating numbers to names on top of it. Doh.
  • This way we could look up the numbers online or in a great big book that would have all the phone numbers in the world.

    Who thought this up? Was he pithed?
  • by josepha48 ( 13953 )
    "I could much more easily guess then figuring out their phone number". Hmm that's like rembering an IP address. Phone numbers changes, why would anyone want this? I could understand if it was or something, but why? We already use IP address is this really that far removed? Hey we also have servers like anyway, that is hidden behind a VIP (Virtual IP) so what's the real benifit of this? Are you more prone to remember a name or a number?

    I don't want a lot, I just want it all!
    Flame away, I have a hose!

  • It is true there are these things called IP addresses, with 32 (or 128 with v6) bits to allocate to servers, but one of the things about IP addresses is that they are meant not to convey any information about where you are or what area your company happens to service.

    On reading this I thought this was a damn silly idea, but at least with these numbers you stand a chance of dealing with a local company. However, its simpler just to enter in your browser and look search for the local shop.
  • But phone numbers ARE a bad system. Here in Dallas, TX, we've got a stack of area codes. These area codes have changed at least twice in the last 20 years. Looking at a telephone number with the 817 area code (mostly Ft. Worth and the mid-cities, including Arlington where I go to school) it's impossible to tell ahead of time whether or not I'm supposed to dial a 1 at the beginning. (Note that if I dial a 1, it costs more to complete the call across town than to California, but that's a different rant...)

    Yes, this is do-able, but it's not elegant, and it's not simple. I, for one, HATE that horrible tri-tone thing that you get when you misdial a number, particularly because I'm usually using a headset on my phones.

    If phone numbers were such a great system, why do we need a phone book? A computer provides a much richer user interface that a 12-key telephone. Why not use it? And people who are uncomfortable with computers aren't suddenly going to warm up to them because they can type in a telephone number.

    URLs aren't perfect, but they're a damn sight better than phone numbers. Any user who can't operate Yahoo or Google is unlikely to want to use the computer for much of anything anyhow.
  • [] was earlier and is free.

  • Maybe I could write a program to associate a name with the number..
  • in which telephone numbers are used in replace of the ubiquitous dot-com address. Interesting idea, but in the business case, I could much more easily guess then figuring out their phone number." - Taco's Post While many companies may have similar names, but dissimilar URL's, finding them online can be hard. If you have a brochure or manual with a service phone number (or any number, really), you just punch that in on the address line and viola!

    It makes sense. No more close approximations of the company name, no more .com/.org/.net confusion, no more wondering if it's hyphenated or not. And since the phone number had to be unique by nature, you get the right place every time.

    Hell, even if it were only a re-direct to the regular URL, that would be something.

  • However, IMO the phone is the ideal standard for usability. Anyone with the least bit of technical savvy can buy a $20 phone (they even have them in supermarkets, of all places) plug it in, pick up the receiver, and dial people's phone numbers. Remembering the numbers is not the hardest part of the ordeal: even inexpensive phones have speed dial nowadays, and I don't go anywhere without my organizer and its phone numbers.

    Compare this to using a computer. We all hate being disconnected on the phone, but that almost never happens when you compare it to using a computer. I can talk on the phone, walk around, and do all sorts of other tasks at the same time without the phone's performance being affected. (My attention span, on the other hand...) The look and feel of phones may differ stylistically, but the procedure is always the same: pick up phone, dial numbers. Compare that with the ever-changing UI standards of computer OS's, and the navigation controls on web pages that often puzzle newbies. "Press 1 for function x, 2 for function y,..." may sound annoying, but (i) we all know how to do this and (ii) frequent users don't even need to listen to the prompts any more.

    Many Internet sites are realizing the ubiquity and relative reliability of the phone system. I can get my Yahoo! Mail by calling 1-800-MY-YAHOO. I can get weather forecasts from MIT by calling 1-888-573-TALK. Weather forecasts and a lot of other functions are available through TellMe (1-800-555-TELL). They're realizing that while the telephone isn't perfect, there is still a lot of functionality that it can carry out.
  • Your first point (Local businesses that just want to use their website to advertise a storefront rather than be an e-business) is interesting, though, in that this problem has been one of my biggest gripes all along. Most of us seem to agree that DNS is suffering under the "pollution" of the "com" TLD, which is even spilling over into "org" and "net". I think a large part of the problem is the fact that these global domains flatten everything into a single namespace, which is ironic since DNS' original solution to the namespace problem was to make it hierarchical.

    DNS is as hierarchical as people want to make it. Most of the problem is local businesses (especially in the USA) insisting of having second level .com domain names. Compounded by registrars having no effective rules (and in the case of NSI explicitally encouraging pollution.)
    The difference with phone numbers is that if a company wanted something like a +800 number they'd have to pay extra for it (and pay for their calls) even more than a national freephone numbers. Phones come as standard with geographic numbers appropriate to the place they are in, anything else is a chargable extra.
  • 2) Make use of higher-level domains more extensively
    Great idea, but we'll never convince corporations. If they come up with a great product/service/whatever they will want the domain-name for that as well as for their company, and a dozen more...

    The problem here is the registrars who don't know how to say "no" or "that's your nth domain so the price will be X*2^n" or even "proof that is a recognised trading name of your company please".
  • It would be kinda cool if both phone numbers and domain names resolved to the same website.

    You'd first need to convince the ISC to update bind to include the '+' character in the valid character set for DNS. Also how do you cope with organisations which print their phone numbers in all sorts of strange ways. If you could rely upon the full number to be printed without spaces then it just might be workable.
  • ... at INET this summer, in Yokohama. Completely mad. Thinks numbers are more memorable than names, and his numbers are more memorable than IP numbers. So he wants to put a new addressing indirection layer on the Internet, to translate hopelessly unmemorable numbers into other hoelessly unmemorable numbers, so that people won't have to remember names. I expect his children are called 1, 2, 3 and 4.

    Totally mad. Quite a pleasant guy to share a beer with, but...
  • First, they were 1-800-Flowers.

    Then, they were (and are)

    Would they be 1-800-Flowers again?

    And would my numpad get phone-like letters applied to the keys? And would it be switched? But I digress.
  • Does this mean that http://911 will get me the police? This will bring trolling to a whole new level [911].

  • I don't know, 1-800-DRUIDIA is pretty easy to remember. :)
  • try a whois on (and about a million other domains).

    They use weird names for their nameservers that are like the ones you mentioned:


  • Numbers are great for routing, but when it comes to user interfaces, Names are the way to go. Making phone numbers as pointers to websites is as advancing as not using IP for 2nd Generation wireless.

    The goal is to advance technology... not to regress to a bad system.

    Unfortunately, this is the goal of the Geek, not the goal of business. The goal of business is to make money. This is commonly forgotten by geeks, and hence people [] point and laugh at the non-bisiness business model most web companies use.

    Lets consider the technological make-up of the world today:
    1. We have the 3rd world. Yes, these people are untapped "web" resources, but the reality is that a TRS-80 is considered high-tech for some of them. Whole towns don't have power, running water, and/or phones. Do you think that these people really care about reverse lookup DNS tables? These people are off of the eBusiness radar.

    2. On the other extreme We have the Uber-geeks. These people are all about making everybodies lives easier - as long as they hold the secret knowledge as to how everything works. Why pay for a phone call, when you can email them? Why email them when you can ICQ them? why ICQ them when you can use voice over ip for free? ...and so on... For many, a phone is becoming outdated technology. For us to remember an email address or a website no problem... for us to find a website or an email address... well there's google [], 411 [] and maqpuest [] so that about covers finding almost any company or private informaton necessary.

    3. Then there are people like my inlaws... Who have internet access and a slough of questions, but don't care to listen. They waited patiently for 3 months until I was around over thanksgiving to remove a stuck CD becuase they didn't feel comfortable with a paperclip. Anyway, they can enter in a URL from the TV screen, but when toyota doesn't say on their advertisement - they don't think to type it in. Some day they may figure it out - but I figure I'll have a few more trips out there before then...

    4. People who aren't don't know anything about computers at all. There are actually a few people in business that still don't use a computer - and not all of them are auto mechanics. A lot of them are older, and very set in their ways. A phone number is a familiar item. They can punch it in and they know what they can expect to hear - someone from that company on the other end of the line. They can type it in on a computer, and amazingly it would take them to the website. Not only have you adapted current technology now to a familiar frame, but you have actively encouraged someone else to see your business model. This are the largest untapped but available customer base for online companies PTFMA.

    In addition, a telephone crossreference fixes many problems with domain squatters, two companies with similar names/different prodcuts, and provides most of america with an existing directory structure to find the company they are looking for (the Yellow Pages).

    Lastly, I personally prefer to shop locally when I can't get a better deal elsewhere. I could run through (617) business lines for the product I wanted. This would allow me to shop online - and have the convenience of doing so - but put the company close enough that if it broke, I could easily return it or exchange it.

    anyways... phone numbers aren't a bad system - just one you wouldn't think to use given the current direction of technology. I however, see where this could be useful - and hence, profitable.

  • This reminds me of Realnames [] who tried to map "real names" to DNS names. They still exist but does anyone use it? In fact companies seem to prefer changing there real names to match their domains! Here in the UK a frozen food superstore changed it's name to [].
  • This sounds very similar to Bango [], which is aimed primarily at WAP users, where numbers make a bit more sense.
  • Works for me! You could start your browser and type "0" to bring up the directory. Then type in a business or person's name and get a list of possibilities, each with a number that can be clicked on.

    Standard trademark laws would be in place. Coca-Cola probably has rights to be the only Coca-Cola, but Smith Consulting would need city information to help you whittle it down.

    Then, like a memory-dial phone, you would bookmark your most commonly visited sites and forget the number.

    It doesn't have to be a phone number. It just has to be a unique number, like, oh say, your IP address.

    The naming system sounds good until you try to pick a unique name and let your business rely on people spelling it right, or working out your messy attempt at a unique name. If you were Smith Consulting what would you use? What did you get the first time you tried to find Via, id, or Diamond? These are national companies. Now try to find a local carpentry service.

    Also, it can be embarrasing to make a messy URL when they are suppose to be so obvious.

  • I don't know how many people here pay attention to infomercials, but there is a large trend for them to register a domain so that their URL is with the phone number being the same that you dial or order over the phone. I don't see how they can claim they are the first to the patent office.
  • Indeed, and the related idea of embedding telephone numbers in extended addresses has long been used in the OSI world. See, for example, RFC1888.
  • The correct link is here [].
  • ...But mainly for computer illiterates. Sure, it might be tough to remember certain addresses when there are a number of similarly named companies (for example, Square Soft, makers of the Final Fantasy series, could just as easily be at, or as As the number of companies online increases worldwide (especially when you have companies in other countries, allowing both to have trademarks on the same company name), more and more of these corporate and personal sites will crop up. However, even assuming that you have a phone number on hand, it still would probably be quicker to just do a google search than search through your address book.

    On the other hand, for those using Altavista, or Lycos, or what have you, or who don't know how to properly refine a query, could have more difficulty. This could be a real boon for those people, as now you can simply look them up in the yellow pages.

    Now whether or not we WANT those people to be able to use the Internet more easily is a question that goes beyond the scope of this post...

  • by saintm ( 142527 )
    Not quite sure what they are trying to achieve really.. The only phone numbers that mean anything to most people are 999 (or 911) and their personal phone numbers. Oh well.. another company that will be hyped up just before a share issue and then fade away like an ice cube in an oven.
  • The differences between what they do and straight IP addresses:
    • With IP, you often end up having to specify a path too, as in if you're lucky. With this "service", 555-1234 can be an alias for that whole mess.
    • It's pretty hard to get an IP and keep it indefinately; if you switch providers or (depending on how good your tech is) add servers, you change IP addresses. This can be redirected as needed.
    • You can convince your dimmer-witted customers that its a long-distance call, then get them to send you a check to cover the charge.

    I hardly think it merits a patent, but it does offer advantages over "http://123.123.123" and looks cleaner than "".

    My mom is not a Karma whore!

  • It's also wrong.

    An IPv4 address is a sequence of 4 numbers (bytes), grouped into sets of one.


    "I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer."
  • The SIDN [], the registry for Dutch .nl domains, which until recently only allowed companies to register .nl domains, now allows individuals to register a domain name as well. However this is a second-level domain, of the form DOMAIN.###.NL where ### is a randomly assigned combination of three digits. This allows up to 1000 people to register the 'same' domain, for instance people having the same name can still both use their own name as domain name.

    I'm still waiting for the first person to send me such a 'cool new domain name'. Most Dutch people who wanted a domain simply got a .org/.net instead or asked a friend at some company to register it for them.

  • > I mean the whole idea re fqdn is for us humans to not have to deal w/ numbers, yes?

    Not really. Thd DNS system have been badly abused by the Internet rush. Those names were not supposed to be seen by humans, but were handles to specific resources. The real DNS was supposed to be something like Google, or Real Names.

    Their idea is not as dumb as I originally thought. Phone numbers are already a way to uniquely indentify a service. Those numbers are ubiquitous. With more and more cell phones getting internet access, the thing may make a bit of sense. You try to reach your friend, but don't find him. You can directly go to its website, or whatever. Or someone calls you. With caller-id, you can have more informations. Or you want to a professional. You get its number from a phonebook, and you can get to its web-site to check its hourly rates, or whatever. Sure, it is dumb because if you were on a computer, you have probably got its number via the web, and if he had a webpage, it would probably been indicated next to the number.

    All in all, it is not 100% stupid. Just 90%...


  • I wonder if people on working to get it to work the other way arround. It would be great to have to dial a .com address instead of having to remember a phone number.
  • A UK Company had a similar idea selling off Bango (!) [TM] numbers to people with the intention of making URLS easier to type into mobiles. []
    They were selling them off at some stupid rates for small numbers - and for some reason they've dished out really attractive numbers to local companies - e.g. 12345 is a regional newspaper.
  • I can nominate them for a potential failure at Should earn me some points!
  • That's just an amazing waste of ~$30/year. If I wanted a numerical way to see a website, I'd do like others have said and use the IP address. Besides, what kind of mess would we have if we ran out of these addresses? I live in Southern California, and we seem to split area codes every few seconds. They just want money, I can forsee them profiled here [] in the near future.
  • IP addresses can be just as revealing as emblazoning your hometown's name and your home phone number on your chest. Banner ad agencies use IP address databases to use regional ads on the page you're viewing (go to DSL Reports [], and if your IP address is specific, then it determines your zip code and shows you an ad for a regional ISP).

    So remember this when you're browsing. The websites can calculate your physical position right down to a 2-mile radius. That's more than close enough for an ICBM!

    Big Brother is watching you, and he doesn't like what he sees...

  • already in existance just with URLs, this should make a real stack of them about the time we get another area code split in say, 805, and all those wonderful tables have to be changed.
    • Phone numbers have explicit routing information in them! This is currently being touted as a 'feature' of IPv6! If you're within part of the route, you have less to type! IPv4 numbers remain the same length, however near you are to the source.
    • Phone numbers are easy to say. Every time I say a URL out loud, I feel like the Comic Store guy in the Simpsons; "that's heigch tee tee pee colon slash slash double-u double-u double-u dot"...
    • Admittedly, I prefer 'dot com' adverts to phone number adverts where the phone number spells a word. I think saying 'phone 1-800 DUMBGUY' is as sillier than saying 'visit'.
    • Typosquatting. Who would buy the number 408-739 to catch people really wanting 468-739?

  • Why do we always incist on forcing a paradigm meant for one technology onto another for the purpose of making it more understandable? Sure, lots of people understand a telephone, but wasn't the point of the Internet to make information more accessible and easier to do so? Telephones are a hassle in and of themselves, even if they are familiar... and besides, I doubt there's many people left who'd go near a computer that don't understand the concept of a URL.

    Score: -1, Redundant.

  • There are actually two separate issues for identifying hosts: location independence and human readability. Arguably, one problem with the current Internet naming system is that it tries to address both issues with one system. So, people will haggle endlessly over names like "" because it has to address a unique host and once someone has adopted it, all links to them would go bad if they changed.

    Separating the two concerns would give you a system where you have a two step resolution: human readable to location independent numbers, followed by location independent numbers to IP addresses. Such a split gives you a lot more flexibility on mapping the human readable names because you can change the mapping without having all the web pages that point to the affected hosts go bad.

    Of course, these location independent numbers should not be phone numbers, since phone numbers do, in fact, change.

  • by kevlar ( 13509 ) on Wednesday November 29, 2000 @05:28AM (#594514)
    Numbers are great for routing, but when it comes to user interfaces, Names are the way to go. Making phone numbers as pointers to websites is as advancing as not using IP for 2nd Generation wireless.

    The goal is to advance technology... not to regress to a bad system.
  • by sammy baby ( 14909 ) on Wednesday November 29, 2000 @05:34AM (#594515) Journal

    Corrected link: hone_numbers_replace_urls__1.html []

    I seem to recall an article involving the relative difficulty of getting to a web site as compared to dialing a telephone. At the time, "web tone" was a hot buzzword. Many companies were using it to describe what they saw as the ideal user experience for the web - it should work as easily as a telephone.

    Except that when you think about it, telephones are pretty damn hard to work. Buy a cheap US$20 phone in a department store. Plug it in. To dial, you have to lift the receiver, wait for the dial tone, then punch in this obscure sequence of ten (in the US, anyway) digits. If you don't know what they are, you have to look them up in a book, or call another number to ask someone. If you misdial, you run the risk of bothering some shmuck in his living room. Etc. The point of the article being, phones aren't as easy to use as everyone seems to give them credit for. We've just been using them since we were kids. Come to think of it - no kid I know who's been using the web for any period of time thinks it needs to be that much easier to use.

    And of course, this neglects an obvious question: what happens if you have to change your phone number?

  • by dublin ( 31215 ) on Wednesday November 29, 2000 @11:48AM (#594516) Homepage
    Actually, so far as I know, the very first time this was done was in about 1993, when Marshall Rose and Carl Malamud introduced a really interesting free fax gateway network at Interop, back when it was the *only* Internet show. Their setup is documented in RFCs 1528, 1529, and 1530, which precede 2916 by a fair amount. :-)

    The system, called (which was only about the fifth or sixth .int registered) was designed to let the then-new MIME deliver a TIFF/F format file via e-mail to a fax machine accessible to a remote fax server.

    Shortly after it was launched using the awkward backwards phone number with every digit separated by a dot syntax, someone (and his name escapes me for the moment) hacked up a special DNS zone to eliminate the extraneous dots and reverse the number. This system is still in use today at [], where you can already address servers by phone number the same way you have for over seven years.

    If you've got some spare cycles and a lightly used phone line lying around, and unmetered local access, you should consider setting up a server for your area. It's fun, and you'll learn a lot about MIME, mail processing, and neat DNS tricks in the process...
  • by compwiz3688 ( 98919 ) on Wednesday November 29, 2000 @05:32AM (#594517)
    "Your access is important to us. Please hold.", "We're sorry, the URL you are trying to reach is busy." and "We're sorry, the number you have typed is out of service. Please disconnect (from the Internet) and try your number again. This is a recording."
  • by AntiPasto ( 168263 ) on Wednesday November 29, 2000 @05:24AM (#594518) Journal
    One eight hundred double-u double-u double-u... dot?? where's the dot? pound-key? well... star looks more like it... *beep*...


    ahh crap this is a net number...


  • by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Wednesday November 29, 2000 @05:29AM (#594519) Homepage Journal
    ... And our phone numbers should be replaced with domain names/ip addresses. I think that's what the future will bring, seeing as email and chat rooms are becoming more and more popular... Not to mention that house phones will be replaced by wireless...

  • by ideut ( 240078 ) on Wednesday November 29, 2000 @05:20AM (#594520)
    Here [] is the article.
  • Wife: Hon? It's still busy...

    Husband: *snicker* Keeeeep tryin'. Call again.

    Wife: (dialing aloud) 1-2-7, 0, 0, 1... damn! Busy!

    Husband: Dear, I gave you the number earlier. You're the one who wanted to eat at Chez Expensif. Why didn't you make reservations?

    Wife: I've been dialing ALL DAY!!!

  • by M100 ( 78773 ) on Wednesday November 29, 2000 @06:02AM (#594522)
    See RFC2916 [] This describes how to map E.164 numbers (telephone numbers) in the DNS. The primary purpose is so that you can email your phone (for example), but there is nothing to stop this system mapping a phone number to a WWW page. Unfortunately this RFC uses the existing reverse-DNS .arpa domain so the phone numbers are written BACKWARDS! Not very friendly.
  • by tycage ( 96002 ) <> on Wednesday November 29, 2000 @05:19AM (#594523) Homepage
    Using number to identify machines! Maybe a sequence of 12 numbers, grouped into sets of three. Too bad no one has ever thought of this!

    Seriously, wouldn't the easiest way to accomplish this be to just turn off DNS


  • by devnullkac ( 223246 ) on Wednesday November 29, 2000 @05:46AM (#594524) Homepage

    "We expect that figure to grow incredulously over the next few months," Nacomms general manager Siobhan Dooley told ZDNet.

    I, for one, am certainly incredulous about the growth prospects.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger