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A digital dial tone is a term used to impose the ubiquitous nature of telephone communication services onto the Internet and Web technologies. Dial tones are telephony signals that are sent by the telephone exchange to indicate the working condition of the service. The dial tone indicates the availability of services and is ubiquitous in telephone communication. In a similar way, a combination of Internet transport protocols and XML is used to provide the basic access to Internet services like search engines and social networking for free, while further access made on a paid basis.
A digital dial tone is not an actual dial tone, as digital cellular phones do not generate dial tones. A digital dial tone is a metaphorical term that is used to define a ubiquitous exchange of information over the Internet. It can be implemented with the help of XML and Internet transport protocols such as HTTP, SMTP and FTP.
There are many types of standards used in the Internet for exchange of structured data. Some of the standards include:
Many other industry-specific standards are not interoperable. They are not compatible with each other and require considerable investment and major changes to information architecture to allow them to be interoperable. This is in contrast to the ubiquitous nature of common telephone systems which are highly interoperable and work with unstructured data. Hence, by proper use of software and internet protocols, B2B messaging and other business transactions can also take place in a way similar to that of telephone communication. The Internet transport protocols and software used for providing such interoperable mechanisms can be referred to as digital dial tones.
The term can also be applied to the use of Internet protocols and software to provide free basic access to certain commonly used services like search engines, weather information, stock prices and social networks, while further access is billed based on usage. This type of Internet usage model has been termed as the "Internet dial tone" by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg by comparing it to the dial tone service provided by conventional telephone systems.