Phone Numbers versus Email Addresses

Posted March 27, 2015 in comment  |  No Comments so far

Stowe Boyd has written a piece about email and how it needs to die.

I broadly agree with the argument. The physical constraints of transport and logistics meant that postal or snail mail was never going to fundamentally progress beyond its initial model of a bunch of people relaying an object from one place to the other over a couple of days. But there’s no equivalent constraint that forces us to accept email as an unchanging model for digital communication. It is old-fashioned and has flaws so why not do better? Other tools exist that work better for specific use cases so why not use them? Let’s move past email when it doesn’t meet our needs, let’s forget about its anachronistic metaphors of inboxes and folders and carbon copies.

There was, however, one assertion in Boyd’s piece that made me raise an eyebrow:

In a mobile world, I expect the phone number will replace the email address.

I really hope that doesn’t happen as it would feel like a huge backward step. You have to pay for a phone number. A phone number is assigned to a specific country. Phone numbers can only be provided by government-licenced telcos, an industry that’s so consolidated that consumers have little real choice. Phone numbers in and of themselves contain no information (apart from nationality, as mentioned above). You can’t choose your phone number.

I could go on but I think those reasons alone should be convincing enough. Whatever the post-email form of unique digital identification is, let’s not allow it to be phone numbers!

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