Communication Identity

Phone numbers are stupid! The fact that they exist is a burden we must live with, but the numbers themselves have no business being displayed to humans. The folks that designed the Internet knew this. You don't type in to your web browser, you type google.com. You don't even have to type the http: part, and you usually don't have to type the www part. The software figures that out. Yet we still get "I'm sorry, you must dial a 1 before dialing that number", and we still have to remember a random string of numbers to talk to our friends? Why? Why? Why?

We need a communication identity. What's a communication identity? Well, it's you, and all of the forms of communication that you can participate in, at that moment in time. Maybe you are at work and you have email, IM, and a phone. Fantastic. Maybe you are at a movie, and IM is appropriate. Maybe you are in the middle of Utah and email can stack up for you while you are gone. The point is, when I want to communicate with "Bob", I should just communicate with Bob in whatever medium is appropriate.

The techinical details below the identity can be hidden. Phone numbers can change. Email addys can change. Your family and friends don't even need to know this is happening. The identity should just auto update over the Internet when you make a change. How many "old cell" numbers have you called? This is 2005, there's no need for that anymore.

A few of you have heard me get all breathless talking about this before. I was reminded of it again this week when I installed Google Talk. Wow. First off, I love Google Talk. The interface is clean, simple, and has little touches that make it better than others I have used. Google Talk does something cool. Each person pretty much has a communication identity. When I double click the contacts name, I am presented a chat window and two buttons at the top. Those buttons are Email and Phone. I get to choose my communication medium. I'm in love. Now, phone is attached to a service built in to Google Talk, but it seems like this could be expanded to attach to a cell phone or perhaps a Vonage soft phone in your computer for traditional "phone" calls.

How cool would it be to have a traditional phone that plugs in to your computer over USB and then works with the Call button in Google Talk. Doesn't seem too hard. It's just a speaker and a mic piped in to USB. Things like the iMic already are that thing. Slap the guts in to an old handset and you have yourself a Google Phone. Hmm, maybe I'll try building that.

The thing is, these communication identities are never going to get off the ground until our phones get smarter. We need to be able to toss our contact info around easier. IR failed terribly at that. Bluetooth has a better chance at succeeding, but I've seen enough bad software to know that isn't an easy road to travel either.

My final comment is on single sign on. Passport failed, and the Liberty project is all but unknown, but the Google beast has a chance at succeeding here. With Google Talk, I can now login to both Gmail and Google Talk with one login, my Gmail address. Now, why they can't tie this in to my Blogger identity, and my AdSense identity, I have no idea, but at least we have something to start with. Another key ingredient to Communication Identity is single sign on. Now, I'm not saying all of your communication forms have to be with the same company, but your communication client will need to be able to sign you in to all of your communication forms with one login or the whole thing is doomed.

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