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What if telephone numbers were open source

How important are mobile telephone numbers? Quite important, we use them intensively. Yet, they are hardly in the telephone books. What if they were a kind of open source? That we share them with whom we like?

Maybe that is what is starting to happen right now. In a mobile service like Adaffix, available in many countries now, we can decide to share our private number list to others and still remain the sole owner of the list.

Basic personal data such as telephone numbers may slowly become a kind of open source, instead of owned by databases. Personal data are raw material, and you don’t have to own the database to make money out of the conversation. So we might be going to a web where the person owns and manages his personal data, not some commercial database or social network.

Telephone directory publishers and yellow pages own the telephone number database and do business with it. They make business numbers and addresses available to callers and earn money with it advertising or database sales. Classically, for them it is important to own and maintain the database of numbers.

However, in the mobile world, it doesn’t work like that. In most countries, not one out of ten mobile numbers is in the directory.  Telephone books and databases are becoming less relevant. Not enough people want them to own and monetise their number.

So, new ‘book’ models arrive. With the Adaffix app, I can share my telephone list with whoever I want. Nobody owns the list, it’s a kind of a communist system, at least one where people decide how much they want to have in common with others. In the legal area, that is called opt-in. You decide. The consequence is a kind of an open source community with millions of mobile telephone numbers that are available for new services.

When someone calls you, the service can give you the name on your mobile screen instead of just the number, even if they are not in your list. With missed calls, you can see the name of the caller. By linking it to Facebook, you can see their picture and their status.

And for businesses, the service offer extra innovative value. Say you want to order flowers or a pizza, but you can’t reach the merchant. The Adaffix service presents you with alternative shops in the area.

Traditionnaly, this kind of service would be limited because the owner of the telephone list would set the rules and the extra value. Now, the consumer gets a better value service, and the directory or yellow pages publisher can focus on working with the merchants even when not owning (and having to maintain) big telephone databases.

This is a new evolution into more effective search for the consumer. It turns the publisher’s paradigm upside down, that’s true, but the good news is that there is still money for them in the conversation, as they are smart and quick enough to go with the open source flow. The telephone list is becoming basic raw material. The services built on the raw material are the interesting thing.

And maybe this is just one step towards complete ownership of our data. Why wouldn’t we be owner and manager of what is known about us on the web?


About Toon Lowette

Customer is not king on the internet, he is dictator. Online services are successful if they allow the customer to do what he came for efficiently and without confusion. Toon Lowette is online publishing consultant in the Customer Carewords network of Gerry McGovern. Task management is the central issue. We teach websites to manage the task, not the content, not the technology. We teach websites to become relentlessly customer centric.


One thought on “What if telephone numbers were open source

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