A Web Address for a Phone Number? Do .Tel

A leading Internet authority OKs a new top-level domain, .tel, an Internet version of an old-fashioned phone number.

A leading Internet authority has approved a new set of Web addresses to serve, in effect, as Internet telephone numbers.

At a recent meeting, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the group tapped London-based Telnic to administer the addresses. The company hasnt yet set a hard date for operations to begin, according to a note on its Web site.

ICANNs unanimous OK comes six years after the company first applied for the rights to distribute these kinds of Web addresses.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read more about .tels long history.

The idea here is to use a Web address that ends in .tel as one would use a telephone number. Steering a Web browser towards www.hertz.tel, for example, would activate an Internet phone call to someone at Hertz.

The car rental agency is a frequent example cited by Telnic, but Hertz doesnt appear to be affiliated yet with the company.

A .tel address would also allow someone to "publish and control, in real time, how they can be reached," according to Telnic.

"The days of needing to remember several telephone numbers, numerous VOIP [voice over IP] or instant message identities and other points of contact for our social and professional networks are over," Khashayar Mahdavi, Telnics chief executive officer, is quoted as saying in a press release announcing the ICANN approval.

The phone calls are via VOIP, which is freely available software that allows an Internet connection to double as an inexpensive local or long distance phone line.

VOIP is considered a burgeoning industry. There are about 1.5 million VOIP users now, but that will blossom in 2010 to about 18 million, or about $4 billion a year in revenue, some analysts believe. The expected growth is largely from major U.S. cable operators that are now using Internet phone services to battle major telephone operators.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read more about how Microsoft heads a long list of VOIP devotees.

But .tel addresses can create real-time connections via cell or landline phones, and through cell phone text messaging.

/zimages/5/28571.gif Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on voice over IP and telephony.