One of the failures in the recent developments of Egypt lays with Google. On 25 January 2011 attempted to mitigate the Egyptian governments Internet outage by purchasing SayNow.
This is not an attempt to trash Google. The failure was Egypt had taken the Internet off line so it was difficult to tell the citizens that they have the option to go to SayNow.com with a phone call which would transcribe what was said, an turn that into a tweet with Twitter.com. That Catch-22 has been put in the trash bin with the Internet back on in Egypt.
While Google can be lauded for its move, it does bring up an important question. What value is a phone number these days?
Certainly the TRCBNews staff has several phone numbers per staff member. Most of us have at least one per country that we interface with. And it is interesting to look back and see the staff has been dropping phone numbers, or at least consolidating them. Google Voice is becoming an ‘umbrella’ number for our staff.
Increasingly, we find ourselves on some sort of Instant Message system with voice on either GTalk or Skype. With sites like Facebook, we all have a global “white and yellow pages”.
There are several limitations to the phone number. The user has to jump through hoops to access voicemail or a conference call. Dial a number, put in some sort of control code. Control pretty much does not exist. Who has not gotten a phone call in the middle of the night from someone who mis-dialed. Too often the mis-dialing comes from someone who had a bit too much to drink and winds up arguing to get a hold of a person that isn’t at that number.
Having (and paying for) an unlisted number does nothing to stop that. Telemarketers violate the Do Not Call list.
How many times has your life been interrupted because the caller is searching for someone at your number, and they are not there?
If, or should we say, when Facebook adds VoIP to its capabilities, control of who can reach you will give you considerably more freedom and the ability to restrict who is reaching out to touch you.
Certainly, privacy issues surround sites such as Facebook. There is an easy answer to that. Lie. It is not a crime to be less than accurate with your birthdate on Social Media. In fact, I suggest it. It is a piece of data that is invaluable in Identity Theft.
Of course nothing is perfect. And taking voice away from the phone number and to a Facebook page certainly will be an improvement to your quality of life.
Google Voice may well be the last phone number you ever release.