How does google click-to-call work?

Google maps now has a new feature that will allow you to call any business they list, for free, using google as an intermediary. All of the business listings have a “call” option. Click on it, and enter your phone number. A few seconds later your phone rings and you are connected. There’s no charge (except the usual airtime charges if you’re using a cell phone) and it seems to include long distance. How do they do this? Are they tied in with the phone company somehow? The mind boggles.

It is difficult for me to believe that this works the way you are describing. Google is pretty good, but it is not magic. For example, how does it know whether to put the call through on your cell phone in your pocket, or the landline phone on the wall?

Because, as the OP said, you have to enter your phone number.

Okay, I now see this on their Click-To-Call FAQ

So the answer to my previous post is: No, it’s not magic; they use whichever phone number you tell them to use.

My guess is that this is a new feature of the phone system, and/or a bug that they’ve figured out how to exploit. It seems similar to how person A can insert a few bytes into the Internet, and suddenly person B gets an email which seems to have been sent by person C. In this case, person A (Google) sends the right codes into the phone system, and person B (the business) will get a phone call which will seem to have been initiated by person C (you), when in actuality, you did not really initiate the call – Google did, and you have to pick up when you hear the ring, in order to be part of it.

Pretty cool!

Ooops, yes he did say that. My bad. Sorry.

It doesn’t need to be so fancy – why can’t it be a simple conference call, perhaps with some VOIP magic thrown in so that they are only dealing with local calls? Google can call you, then when you pick up, Google can call the company, with you conferenced in, and then it goes on like a regular call.

I assume that this works because it’s about calling businesses, who pay for each call handled by Google, just like the clicks they pay for.

It’s basically “call bridging”. They call you, they call the business, and then connect the two of you directly. I’d also guess they are leveraging voice-over IP which makes long distance prices more of a fixed cost. Google just pays for a number of trunks (concurrent calls), so Google isn’t really paying by the minute. It’s not exactly free for them, but the prices can be pretty low.