another hairbrained scheme.
February 20, 2001 2:27 PM   Subscribe

another hairbrained scheme. verisign (owner of network solutions) has devised a proprietory system that will allow cell-phone web-surfing fools to type in a phone number instead of a URL. it seems that "" is hard on a keypad. you have until april to apply to the new service (called WebNum) for one of the easy-to-remember numbers...1000, say. at which point WebNum (how much do I like saying that?) will decide on the most "effective" assignment of the requested shortcuts.
posted by rebeccablood (16 comments total)
what's the name for fans of this service going to be? ..... WebNumNuts!

posted by cnabokov at 2:32 PM on February 20, 2001

Do people really surf the web with their freaking phones? And if so, doesn't it just, well, suck? I can see (I guess) stock reports and directory assistance (I guess), but news? Jeez . . . scan the newsstand or something. Read a book. Aren't you guys all programmers and other assorted web-heads? Man, I leave work, and about the last thing I want is anything to do with the web, much less carry it around in my briefcase, waiting for it to electronically hassle me.

I guess I'm just a techno-Philistine, but I don't get it.
posted by Skot at 2:56 PM on February 20, 2001

Web Numb.
posted by Kikkoman at 3:01 PM on February 20, 2001

Why don't they just have you type in the IP?
posted by sonofsamiam at 3:03 PM on February 20, 2001

re: Why don't they just have you type in the IP?

two words: virtual hosting

when you click "go" your web browser resolves the ip address of the
remote host and connects to the web server. then, in addition to the
url, your browser tells the web server which web site the url should
come from. this is how one machine can serve multiple web sites.

of course, there are ways to make an ethernet device respond to multiple
ip addresses (web hosting providers that advertise a static ip address
do this) and then assign a web site to that ip address, but i don't know
the extent in which this is done ... especially with web sites that
are configured with round-robin dns for load balancing

so, webnum is like aol keyword, but different. if the target
audience is honestly wireless surfers, i can see the benefits.

posted by chrish at 3:20 PM on February 20, 2001

Ok, that makes sense. I tend to think on the very small scale, net-wise :)
posted by sonofsamiam at 3:25 PM on February 20, 2001

My experience is limited to the PocketNet service from AT&T, so, YMMV with others... Only a couple of occasions have I resorted to "typing" a URL. Yes, it's a pain in the a$$ to do. But with the predefined choices and the way that AT&T has implemented your "home page" (it's editable via the web from a computer, so you set up your own "favorites" and etc.) typing in a URL really just isn't that necessary. Plus, it allows you to define a "home portal" from a list of them (e.g., Yahoo!, Excite, etc.) most of whom have already starting formatting substantial parts of their info store for display on a phone, with easy single digit menu choices. In a more wide open future, maybe WebNums will be a good idea, but for now, at least on PocketNet, they're not going to be terribly useful.
posted by m.polo at 3:44 PM on February 20, 2001

This sounds like a scheme to generate more revenue in the domain name area. "Get the good numbers before they're gone." NSI is obviously looking for new ways to make $, as discussed in this thread.
posted by gimli at 3:50 PM on February 20, 2001

Do people really surf the web with their freaking phones?

in the US, no. but i understand a full 70% of all surfing in Japan is done wirelessly. (It's mostly kids.) Will it catch on like that here? I doubt it, but obviously someone thinks it's worth a gamble. (I'm too lazy to find a link.)

The problem with the plan is that it's very short-sighted. Voice recognition is already available on some Sprint PCI (i think) phones. soon, it's will be "Find yahoo dot com", Star-Trek-communicator-style.
posted by jpoulos at 5:57 PM on February 20, 2001

And with those kids in Japan, it's mainly Hello Kitty and karaoke, according to some report I heard recently. What's the killer app here?
posted by rodii at 6:04 PM on February 20, 2001

jpoulos, you're correct in your statement that phone access to the web is huge in japan - Docomo's i-mode [the most popular provider by far] is used by teens, moms, salarymen... I'm currently an expat living in Tokyo, and everyone here seems to have a phone and use it for far more than conversations.

As for killer apps, well, its pretty much what you'd expect, at current. I use my phone nearly every morning to get the weather [so I know to grab my umbrella]... I email with my friends in San Francisco while I'm on the bus... and there's always stock reports. I haven't used the mobile banking feature, which lets you purchase items via infrared signal to ticket and vending machines.

The real breakthrough is the recent release of the i-app enabled phones, which let you d/l java applets. games are the primary offering, but the potential is fairly remarkable.
posted by gangcandy at 7:18 PM on February 20, 2001

This is so original, an Australian company has already applied for a patent on it. Let the lawsuits begin!
posted by raymondc at 7:48 PM on February 20, 2001

Didn't some domain squatter try something similar a while back when he registered a whole bunch of numerical domain names?

I know this is a slightly different thing, but if no one bit back then . . .
posted by alana at 8:22 PM on February 20, 2001

> another hairbrained scheme

That should be hare-brained: as stupid as one of those rabbit-like beasties with the big ears and the small brains.

posted by pracowity at 11:20 PM on February 20, 2001

You know, no offense, gangcandy--this isn't directed at you, it's more of a general comment--but I shudder to think I live in a society where constant checking of stock prices is a priority for anyone outside a small circle of obsessive traders. If the stock-trading disease has really become general enough to be a killer app, I've lived too long. Yuck.

Ditto games, in a different way, I suppose. Maybe I'm just old.

Pracowity: yeah, those rabbits are as dumb as a box of hair.
posted by rodii at 6:04 AM on February 21, 2001

The wireless web tells me the latest baseball scores, and for that I love it so.

Also, if I arrive 10 minutes early for a meeting, it's nice to be able to read through the news on my phone.
posted by pixelpony at 9:23 AM on February 21, 2001

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