Click to Call as been around online forever, yet it has been little used. Historically yellow pages publishers (e.g., Superpages) that offered it saw limited use vs. more conventional phone calling to local businesses.
At one time Google offered it as a feature to contact local businesses on Google Maps. But that was discontinued in 2007. Similarly the pre-Bing Windows Live Local also had “call for free” (C2C), which was later discontinued. Why? Basically because these services were not used except by a small number of people. We may, however, be entering a new period where Click2Call “returns” and becomes more widely adopted and actively used, as part of a larger movement toward VoIP services.
Two developments point toward but don’t guarantee this . . .
First there’s a new Facebook app from a company called 8×8 Connect, which places a “call me” button on your Facebook profile and doesn’t show a user’s phone number:
This launches a module (image can be replaced with profile photo) to enable people to call any number supplied by the user:
Next, Google’s browser Chome has added a Skype-like “extension” that enables click to call through the browser:
- Adds a button to the toolbar, which displays the number of unread messages in your Google Voice inbox.
- Gives you quick access to your most recent messages with transcripts.
- Lets you initiate calls and send free text messages by just typing any number or contact name.
- Makes phone numbers on websites callable via Google Voice by just clicking on them.
Of course Skype has similar functionality, and is/was being used by European Directories as part of a local/Maps SEO strategy.
As a momentary digression, imagine how Facebook might implement its own version of this: free calls domestically and low-cost, Skype-like calls outside the US. And imagine how this might facilitate “leads” to local businesses via Facebook. Although it might be hard to charge on a per-call/per-lead basis given the availability of the 8×8 Connect free service (or others that might crop up). Still this C2C capability potentially makes Facebook even more useful to local businesses as a marketing platform. The line between C2C and PPCall is a thin one, of course.
We’ll see if these new services and/or others like them “take” this time around. My guess is that the market is now better conditioned to understand, accept and use these types of services.