There Can Be Only One!

aha, I got a few responses/questions to my post last week about the death of email, so thought I’d explain it a little clearer.

Email may be being used less and less but we need email addresses, as they’re the most widely used open standard that we can use to uniquely identify ourselves on the internet. Of course Mr Zuckerberg would like to change that, and make having to have a Facebook ID the defacto ID and login for the web. That won’t happen as the web community naturally resists when a monopoly gets too big. Ironically you still need an email address to create a Facebook ID initially, although I’m sure it won’t be long before you can use just your mobile number to do it.

So why do I think needing an email address is likely to become a thing of the past, let’s look at phone numbers and domain names first.

When you purchase a mobile phone or have a landline installed, you get a unique number for your country or area, these numbers have in turn been allocated to the service provider you’ve chosen. If you choose to change service provider you can usually transfer the mobile number to the new one, thus retaining your number.

When you purchase a domain name, you choose a registrar that offers the services you need and pay them annually to retain it. If you decide to have a website you point the domain name at an IP address allocated to the service provider. The IP address is the unique ID number for the webserver that will host your website, is an example. NB every device that connects to a network has a unique IP address.

So what? Well imagine this…

You go to a service provider that gives you a unique number, just like getting a mobile phone or a domain name, but unlike a mobile number, this number replaces your mobile, email, domain name, message service, voice calls, Twitter ID, Facebook ID, in fact any social network you choose to register it with.

If your number were +878101393436328

http://n.878101393436328 is your domain
@878101393436328 is you email, instant message ID
+878101393436328 is your phone number and entering the number is how you’re found on social networks (the same way someone finds you using your email address or mobile number)

You control how your messages are routed the same way you decide who hosts your website, or handles your email. So if someone calls +878101393436328 you decide if it gets routed to a mobile, landline, desktop, TV, tablet (or they could all ring at once, or in sequence), same when someone sends you an SMS, email, instant message, Tweet, Skype etc, it makes no difference how the message originated, as long as it’s routed correctly… the same way someone can call you on your mobile from the other side of the world using their phone / Skype, the audio gets routed to you instantly, no matter where you both are.

This will only be possible when the standards are open, there’s no monopoly and it’s available to everyone. That’s when email addresses or having to be on the same social network or instant message service or same VOIP service will become obsolete and a thing of the past.

Further reading: The ITU (International Telephone Union) introduced a universal personal telephone number (UPT) +878 in 2001 (wikipedia), controlled by VISIONng. ENUM is the process of converting a telephone number into an internet name space.