Masked Phone Numbers with Node.js and Express
This Express sample application is modeled after the amazing rental experience created by AirBnB, but with more Klingons.
Host users can offer rental properties which other guest users can reserve. The guest and the host can then anonymously communicate via a disposable Twilio phone number created just for a reservation. In this tutorial, we'll show you the key bits of code to make this work.
To run this sample app yourself, download the code and follow the instructions on GitHub.
Legal implications of managing communications between users
If you choose to manage communications between your users, including voice calls, text-based messages (e.g., SMS), and chat, you may need to comply with certain laws and regulations, including those regarding obtaining consent. Additional information regarding legal compliance considerations and best practices for using Twilio to manage and record communications between your users, such as when using Twilio Proxy, can be found here.
Notice: Twilio recommends that you consult with your legal counsel to make sure that you are complying with all applicable laws in connection with communications you record or store using Twilio.
Read how Lyft uses masked phone numbers to let customers securely contact drivers.
Create a Reservation
The first step in connecting a guest and host is creating a reservation. Here we handle a form submission for a new reservation which contains the message and the guest's information which is grabbed from the logged in user.
Part of our reservation system is receiving reservation requests from potential renters. However, these reservations need to be confirmed. Let's see how we would handle this step.
Confirm the Reservation
Before the reservation is finalized, the host needs to confirm that the property was reserved. Learn how to automate this process in our first AirTNG tutorial, Workflow Automation.
Once the reservation is confirmed, we need to purchase a Twilio number that the guest and host can use to communicate.
Purchase a Twilio Number
Here we use a Twilio Node Helper Library to search for and buy a new phone number to associate with the reservation. When we buy the number, we designate a Twilio Application that will handle webhook requests when the new number receives an incoming call or text.
We then save the new phone number on our
reservation model, so when our app receives calls or texts to this number, we'll know which reservation the call or text belongs to.
Now that each reservation has a Twilio Phone Number, we can see how the application will look up reservations as guest or host calls come in.
Find a Reservation
When someone sends an SMS or calls one of the Twilio numbers you have configured, Twilio makes a request to the URL you set in the Twiml app. In this request, Twilio includes some useful information including:
Fromnumber that originally called or sent an SMS.
ToTwilio number that triggered this request.
Take a look at Twilio's SMS Documentation and Twilio's Voice Documentation for a full list of the parameters you can use.
In our controller we use the
to parameter sent by Twilio to find a reservation that has the number we bought stored in it, as this is the number both hosts and guests will call and send SMS to.
Next, let's see how to connect the guest and the host via SMS.
Connect Via SMS
Our Twilio application should be configured to send HTTP requests to this controller method on any incoming text message. Our app responds with TwiML to tell Twilio what to do in response to the message.
If the initial message sent to the anonymous number was sent by the host, we forward it on to the guest. Conversely, if the original message was sent by the guest, we forward it to the host.
To find the outgoing number we'll use the
gatherOutgoingNumber helper method.
Let's see how to connect the guest and the host via phone call next.
Connect Via Phone Call
Our Twilio application will send HTTP requests to this method on any incoming voice call. Our app responds with TwiML instructions that tell Twilio to
Play an introductory MP3 audio file and then
Dial either the guest or host, depending on who initiated the call.
That's it! We've just implemented anonymous communications that allow your customers to connect while protecting their privacy.
Where to Next?
If you're a Node.js developer working with Twilio, you might want to check out these other tutorials:
Easily route callers to the right people and information with an IVR (interactive voice response) system.
Instantly collect structured data from your users with a survey conducted over a voice call or SMS text messages. Learn how to create your own survey in the language and framework of your choice.
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