One Contact Info to Rule Them All
My calendar is full of meeting links. To reach a new person or company, I click on a scheduling link. But these links are doing just a small fraction of what they are capable of.
A link can do everything a phone number or email address can do, using popular tools like Twilio and SendGrid. This article explains why meeting links will replace phone numbers and email addresses — and sooner than you think.
Meeting Links Can Do Phone Calls
If you’ve ever clicked a meeting link from a WebRTC-based service like join.me or bluejeans, you’ve seen the magic happen. Your browser fires up a voice and video connection to the other user’s computer or phone — no download, no install, no password needed. WebRTC is supported by almost everybody.
Let’s add a menu page — click the meeting link and land on the menu page. There’s button to join the meeting, of course, but there’s another button to place a phone call to the other person.
You click the “Call Now” button, and the website fires up the microphone on your device. On the back end, it connects a standard phone call to the other person using Twilio. You’re talking into your computer or phone’s microphone just like a Zoom meeting. But the other person gets a phone call or an App-based VoIP call. You never had, or needed, their phone number.
But wait, there’s more!
Meeting Links Can Forward Messages
From the menu page, click the “Text Message” button. You type in a quick message and hit “send”. Twilio forwards the text to the other person’s phone, where it arrives like any other SMS text message. Or, it forwards to a messaging App or service that the other person uses.
You don’t need a phone number, in fact they may not be using one. They could be using WhatsApp, or maybe Telegram, Signal, FB Messenger, or something else.
Now, click the “Email” button. You type in a message, upload an attachment, and hit “Send”. A tool like SendGrid forwards the email to the other person’s email address. You didn’t need their email address, and they might not even be using email. Lots of messaging apps support long messages and attachments, and have an API to forward messages into.
Meeting Links Don’t Have to Expire
The extra buttons for “Call”, “Text” and “Email” on your meeting link aren’t that useful during the meeting. They’re useful before the meeting — especially to send an agenda, or questions or documents that will be needed at the meeting.
They’re also useful after the meeting. I can put that meeting link under your name in my Contacts, and that’s where I can call you, text you, or send a follow-up email after the meeting. And next time we have a video meeting, we can use the same link. Isn’t that easier?
That’s why meeting links shouldn’t expire. If I give 100 different meeting links out to 100 people, each person now has a permanent “address” where they can call, text or email me.
Fighting SPAM, Robocalls, and Abusive People
If I give out meeting links instead of a phone number and email, something magic happens. It puts the people with a Meeting Link into a different pathway, away from automated SPAM and robocalls. If you contact me this way, I know exactly who you are based on the meeting link, and I can set my alerts and notifications to give you priority.
There’s one more bit of magic from this approach. If someone is being abusive, and I need to turn off their meeting link, it doesn’t affect the other 99 people who have a different meeting link with me. Or maybe I just remove phone calling from their link, but they can still email me.
Or maybe I set a rule that friends and family can call on weekends, but business contacts cannot. When that salesperson goes to our meeting link on a Saturday, the “Call” button is greyed out. But my friends see a working “Call” button 7 days a week.
A link-based contact system, where each person has a different address to contact me, allows granular permissions that a phone number or email based system can’t match.
Getting a Meeting Link from a Schedule Link
Most of the Meeting Links on my calendar came from someone’s Scheduling Link. They have a public scheduling link on their website from Calendly, Microsoft Bookings or another service. Anyone can access the scheduling link, but when you schedule a meeting you get a unique Meeting Link, just for you and the other person.
From an architecture perspective, this is absolute gold. You have a public facing link, where people pass an invisible CAPTCHA test, put in their name and email, and establish their identity. Then after that, they get a unique link for the meeting (or ongoing conversation) between the two people.
Here’s what the makers of Scheduling Links are missing. This is the right architecture even if you don’t want to schedule a meeting. Maybe you just want a unique link so you can send me a text message or email. Or place a quick phone call. Or just put it in your contacts for later.
Once you see the “Meeting Link” as a link for the ongoing conversation between two people, the “Scheduling Link” is not just about scheduling. It’s a public facing link that establishes identity, creates a unique conversation address, and keeps the bots out. Scheduling a meeting is only a small part of what you can do.
We Have the Architecture To Do More
In this new decade, contact information is rapidly moving away from phone and email to scheduling links and meeting links. But the makers of those links are only seeing a small part of the puzzle.
It’s as if the inventors of the steam engine never thought to put it on wheels and make it go somewhere.
Calendly just raised $350 million at a valuation of $3 billion. Zoom has been valued at $57 billion. The only way to justify these kinds of lofty valuations is to make scheduling links and meeting links do a lot more than they do today. The investors will demand it.
The humans of 2021 are already using scheduling links and contact links as contact info. The behavior change — that’s the hard part — has already happened. Now it’s time to expand what meeting links and scheduling links can do.
Meeting Links will replace phone numbers and email, and sooner than you think.