Google Inc. is testing a new advertising feature that lets someone chat directly with the person or business vying for his attention.
The ads, that started showing up a few days ago, sport a phone icon to activate the feature. From there, you provide a telephone number so the advertiser can call you. The caller, Google says, never learns of the phone number that's been provided.
The call "is on our dime," Google writes of the service.
A Google spokesman on Monday confirmed the company had begun sporting the new feature on some ads, but it was only a test.
The company declined further comment.
The new twist in Google ads is the search giant's take on a well-established Web advertising feature known as click-to-call.
The idea is similar to a hyperlink, a Web site staple that lets people click a specially coded word or photo and jump instantly to another area of the Internet.
The initial "click-to-chat" links first appeared in the last 1990s, and have resurfaced on the personal Web sites of Free World Dial-Up members.
Jeff Pulver, founder of the free VoIP service, said by clicking the icon, a FWD dialer is connected instantly without having to look up a telephone number.
In 2003, Microsoft added just such a service to the software giant's Office Live Communications Server.
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