I recently had a conversation with a friend about the obsolescence of telephone numbers these days. For the most part, I don't remember anyone's phone number anymore, because I just click on their name in my contacts list if I call them. In many ways, phone numbers are like IP addresses. On the internet, we've wisely obscured IP addresses for the most part with URLs, and these days, we've done something pretty similar by default with phone numbers thanks to built-in phone address books. But, the problems with phone numbers goes even further -- starting with the fact that they're tied to a single provider. Via Planet Money
, we learn of this fun rant from Nilay Patel, detailing why it's time for phone numbers to die
, and how Google, Microsoft and Apple are all working to speed along the death of the phone number:
I hate phone numbers. Theyíre a relic of an outmoded system that both wireless and wireline carriers use to keep people trapped on their services ó a false technological prison built of nothing but laziness and hostility to consumers. In fact, I canít think of a single telecom service that is as restrictive as the phone number: email can be accessed from any device, Skype makes apps for nearly every platform, IM works across any number of clients, there are web-based messaging solutions that transcend platforms entirely ó the list goes on. We expect modern telecom services to be universal, cheap, and easily-accessible, and those that arenít tend to be immediate failures. Ask Cisco how Umi went for them sometime.
As he notes, you can start to break out of those limits today, thanks to things like Google Voice and Skype, and as that advances, we may finally reach an age when the idea of a telephone number is a historical relic... like the people who used to say letters for the first two digits of their phone number.