Friday, July 10, 2009

More thoughts on Google Voice, and phone numbers in general.

It's been brought to my attention that Skype offers a lot of features similar to Google Voice's. Skype also allows Skype-to-Skype sending of files, even from a mobile phone. That's cool. The problem is, if I go with either Google or Skype, I get one number I'm supposed to have all of my current contacts use. What if I want to switch services? Do I have to start over with a completely new number?

We're almost past needing area codes, aren't we? I know a lot of people that keep their old cell numbers even after moving to a new state (as I'm sure I will) because it's easier that way. Maybe everybody should be assigned one permanent number, and we get to choose how and where it's used. I can see problems with that, privacy and all, people you want to get away from always knowing your number. Then again, Google Voice will probably eventually have blockers for telemarketing and other undesired calls, if it doesn't already. You could still have alternate numbers, you could still keep your number private, and you could always use a incoming whitelist or blacklist, whatever you prefer. No, wait, the idea of one permanent number is stupid.

Here's a real bright idea: phone numbers should be more like web domains. I own a domain now, (duh), which I registered. I 'own' it until I let it lapse, at which point it's available for anyone else to register. I can set up any email accounts I want through this domain, provided my host allows it. I can change hosts a hundred times, but I'll still own this domain. That URL is perpetually how you'd locate this information, and that email address should always go straight to me.

The identifier (URL) is separate from the service provider (web host). That is how phone numbers should be. I realize that by law you are now given the option to keep the same phone number if you change cell phone companies, but that's not quite the same thing. There should be a registry that we go to in order to apply for phone numbers. Once approved, we then 'own' the applied for numbers until we let them lapse. When we sign up for phone service, they would use the number (or one of the numbers) we have already registered. Or they could register a number for us, as some hosts do with domains.

It's simple, and it's flexible. The only problem I see is that it would probably cost money, as registering domains does. It probably already does cost, but the phone companies handle it. People would start being directly confronted with these costs, so they'd think it's a step back. They'd complain, regardless of how much easier it makes their lives. Or my life, at least.

Oh well, people always need new things to complain about.

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