The Evolution of the Dialer

Marc Jarrett
Many webmasters old enough to remember the glory days of the classic "old school" dialer tend do so with a certain degree of reminiscent nostalgia, not least since for many of those that deployed them in the early days of the web, it was one hell of a money machine.

Back then, when dial-up reigned supreme as the primary method of accessing the Internet, surfers would be invited to circumvent AOL & Co. by letting their modems connect directly to the Internet via a premium rate telephone number, thus gaining instant access to the desired titillating content, which was not so freely available back then as it is now.

All was fine in theory: Surfer's usually got what they wanted and were more than happy to pay you using this "buy-now, pay-later" kind of billing.

In practice, however, this chapter in the dialer's checkered history was relatively short-lived, partly due to increasing broadband penetration that rendered this kind of dialer obsolete, and partly due to a barrage of bad press after greedy and short-sighted crooks started to develop malicious variants that would then connect to a premium number every time its victims connected to the web, leading to horrendous phone bills for the scammed surfer, and disastrous PR for the dialer.

Perhaps partly due to this, surfers became increasingly wary before downloading any third party software onto their computers. Furthermore, modern operating systems and free software would ensure that the message not to download such software got across to potential customers — a real turn-off for the turned-on surfer!

Thus the next chapter in the dialer's turbulent history was born: the birth of the so-called "voice" dialer. This, too, is powered by premium-rate phone numbers, but causes none of the headaches associated with its predecessor.

With a voice dialer, surfers see an on-screen call-to-action inviting them to call a premium-rate number. They are then granted immediate access to the member's area for the time that the call connection is maintained. As soon as they hang up, they will no longer be able to access the content.

Smut searchers who like what they see and elect to pick up the phone are therefore paying you on a per-minute basis, which many industry observers believe will become more commonplace as we witness a shift away from the $29.90 monthly credit card subscription model to more of a pay-as-you-go one.

In an era of abundant free porn available via tubes and torrents, once surfers have found what floats their boat, they are essentially paying you for the convenience of not having to seek out the desired content elsewhere.

The amount of money you make with this form of microbilling is totally content-driven — the more compelling and attractive the content, the longer the customer is likely to hang around, and therefore the more money you will make.

Bear in mind, your phone processor does not dictate the end-user costs, the various phone companies with whom they have interconnect agreements do. This is why the outpayments vary from country to country.

Given the ubiquity of the phone and cell phone worldwide, the voice dialer will not only enable you to make money on a global scale from surfers without credit cards living in developing countries, but also from those in developed ones who prefer the convenience and, above all, anonymity of paying you this way.

In conclusion, while the original dialer might have died, its successor is very much alive and kicking — and given the fact that more and more countries are introducing domestic premium rate pay-per-call billing, its future is looking very bright indeed.