Enough with the iPhone news. Let’s talk about a little detail that no one else is talking about. The interesting thing for me is how the web is joining our good friend the telephone. A while back I talked about Callto links and how these could be tied into Vonage using a little tool I wrote. So I was pretty interested to see how the iPhone would allow a web-page to connect to a telephone number.
i was expecting either callto: links or perhaps a telephone microformat or perhaps a proprietary solution.
Surprisingly it turns out that it’s none of the above. The iPhone is using a not so well known RFC to create telephone hyperlinks. This is done through a tel: link format that I’d never heard of called RFC 3966.
The format allows you to create an anchor link and use a tel: URI to point to a telephone number. For example if you wanted to contact Apple customer support you would use a link like this:
Call Apple Customer Support at 1-800-275-2273
Go ahead and give it a try, I don’t yet have an iPhone to test this out.
The link format is fairly straight forward:
<a href="tel:+1-800-275-2273"> Call Apple Customer Support at 1-800-275-2273 </a>.
If more sites start using this for their contact information other providers for the tel: URI may begin supporting the format (Vonage, Verizon, Skype, etc.) This makes it easy to transition from a web interface to a voice interface. The format also theoretically suppors alternative SIP providers and extensions making it possible to put a corporate directory online in the form of an iPhone application.
Update: Apple also supports turning off auto-detection of phone numbers via a meta-tag.
<meta name="format-detection" content="telephone=no">
Update 2: When I first wrote this post we hadn’t done any real iPhone work. I didn’t even own an iPhone. Since then a lot has changed, our company now focuses on building world class apps. Learn more from our homepage and let me know if we can help.