Social ENUM Platform Enables Facebook & Twitter Phone Calls

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Tom Keating
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Social ENUM Platform Enables Facebook & Twitter Phone Calls

ENUM resolves phone numbers into a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) or IP addresses. It's basically "DNS" for phone numbers, mapping a person's phone number to the person's IP address on the network for routing the call over IP over a carrier's network. ENUM offered the promise of a single point of contact for all communication devices, that has largely been unfulfilled. Now, with the exponential rise of social media networks, people are starting to self-identify themselves with their Facebook username or Twitter account ID more than their phone number. Today, social media users want the ability to communicate with someone via their social media ID, such as their Facebook account ID or Twitter ID instead of using antiquated phone numbers.

Well, imagine if you could integrate an ENUM database with social networks, such as Facebook or Twitter, that enables you to register your various phone numbers and devices into this ENUM database. Then using whichever social media authentication you chose to login (Facebook Connect, Twitter oAuth) you can control how, when, and whom can contact you. This would allow you to hide your personal phone numbers while still allowing people to click-to-call you over the Web using social networks. Further, with social media security controls, you can make it so that only people in your Facebook friends list are able to call you.

That's the goal of Telesocial, a company still in stealth-mode, but expected to launch in beta next month. Telesocial offers an API platform that leverages social media networks and ENUM to enable widespread name resolution to user's devices which will enhance communications and offer a value-add to operators. Telesocial converts social media usernames into phone numbers using what they call the "Social Enum" and transmits the calls to the appropriate networks.
It works as simple as this:
1) Authenticated social media user clicks to call a friend (no phone number needed)
2) Telesocial converts the User IDs into phone numbers with Telesocial's Social Enum and transmits the calls to the right networks
3) The friend's device(s) ring.

I spoke with Telesocial Founder and CTO, Eric Stone to learn more about their solution.

Eric Stone explained, "We've been working for three years on a social ENUM and operator media routing system for delivering core services to devices. For whatever reason we think that number one, voice isn't really integrated into your phone system, it's so antiquated. It just doesn't work on the social web and that's really where carriers have been losing. We really looked at the problems and we looked at the business model as well. We saw how things don't integrate well between your mobile, your wireless, your landline, and the social web."

He continued, "We then looked at the business model of the VoIP industry and examined why or why does this not work, and then really saw the obvious - that the carriers are the value chain here. And so we want to empower them with something. What we developed is an inter-operator social ENUM system that lets operators route things as they would any normal network device to the social web. They way we do that is custom record types and rules and security around the system that is like ENUM. It's like taking a carrier ENUM system and doing all the things you wish it could do, but they can't."

He went on to explain that Telesocial is giving carriers a new type of "origination" service. Eric explained, "There are multiple federated authentication systems out there, including Facebook, Twitter, iTunes, Android Store, Google/Gmail, OpenID, Yahoo, etc. People are used to logging in with Facebook Connect and interacting with third party applications on those platforms. That's how Telesocial works. It's a multi-layer security app that sits on top a modified ENUM that enables you to do some interesting things with SRV and pointer records."

He explained that their platform has a "app store for voice" or a "app store for media servers" feel to it. "We are an API service. We're a platform on one side and we're an inter-operator network on the other side. So we're different from Twilio, Voxeo, all the VoIP guys like Jajah, because we're not an IVR system. There's no dial-in in our system. There's no phone number routing with the system. It's more use-case driven on the social web how our system functions differently than a typical VoiceXML IVR system." He explained that one of the greatest challenges for the operators is if everything goes to an IP network, how do I make the dumb pipe smart? What adds smarts to the pipe for additional value?

In a nutshell, their platform grants user and device-level control and their platform leverages existing social media authentication methods, including Facebook Connect, Twitter oAuth, OpenID, etc. It's like a "social firewall" for your phone. Users can control and hide their phone numbers, but yet use their devices with social media. The current version of their product doesn't do VoIP and instead runs over the carriers' PSTN network. Telesocial enables developers to voice-enable social networks, so you can have a phone call in Farmville, or have a conference in LinkedIn, or send a voice tweet to all of your Twitter followers.

Some of the platform features include:
  • Outbound Calling Group Calling / Conference Calling
  • Always On Conference Call
  • Scheduled Calls
  • Scheduled Conference Calls
  • Recorded Calls
  • Recorded Conference Calls
  • Voice Blasts Scheduled
  • Voice Blasts Record and Voice Blast Outbound
  • SMS Group SMS 2-Way
  • SMS Group SMS Chat
  • Outbound Fax
  • Fax Distribution
It's fascinating to think that one day we'll be able to default to calling someone via their Facebook or Twitter ID/username instead of a phone number. Of course, the demise of phone numbers has been predicted many times, but if anything social media will compliment phone numbers, not replace them - at least for the foreseeable future.

Telesocial is launching their beta API in July. The API uses cloud-based REST calls and SOAP/XML, though they might be releasing libraries in PHP, Ruby, and a pure JavaScript client possibly as well.

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