Using mobile numbers as URIs

by Jed

So, a couple of weeks ago I invented Convergence Culture. Then I invented URI’s. Then I thought I invented the concept of propagation planning.

It turned out that all three of these ideas had been invented by other folk before me. So instead of sulking (although I did sulk for a little while) I decided to look at how to use them all together.

You see, my idea of convergence culture was a little bit different – it was more to do with when people’s online and offline persona’s become a single entity. When you no longer ‘create’ your online persona, because you are it. Where Henry Jenkins looked at technology converging, I’m interested in people converging (please, please, please correct me if Jenkins mentions this, I wanted to read the book before I referenced the concept but I got all puppy-like and wrote the post pre-book).

So my theory is that as more and more people join the ‘social web’ we’ll be forced to reflect our true selves – we will no longer be the owners of our own brand, our social graph will. And our social graphs will collide – just look at Twitter and Facebook’s ‘people you may know’ tools – they actively seek to converge our networks. So, eventually, we’ll use single networks rather than niche networks (this idea is a little more shakey) because all of our friends will converge.

So, once our online and offline selves have become one (how very philosophical) we’ll be able to truly integrate into things like ‘The Internet of Things‘ and some basic semantic principles. Which means inevitably that we’ll each have to have a URI.

Every person will need a unique identifer.

While most of Silicon Valley races to create a network that will be our unique identifier, something struck me while watching Jan Chipchase’s TED talk. We already have one. Our mobile numbers. There are 500million people on Facebook, 550million on Skype yet and 3 billion people with mobile numbers.

3 billion.

So with more than half the population (and counting) already part of a URI scheme, would it not be much simpler to use mobile numbers as our unique identifiers? Yes. It would (and as Jan points out, mobile could also completely decentralise the banking system, but that’s another post for another time).

Our mobile numbers are already tied to much of our lives. Through Facebook (listed), Google Voice (multiple numbers for single person), and on and on with regardless to online connections. With offline, to a larger extent, they’re the ONLY connectors we have to many of our social graph.

Let’s think about this in semantic web principles for a second…

If instead of your name, you had a mobile as your core data point (all goes a bit scary at this point) then you could use that as the bedrock for the rest of your contact points – you’d have multiple email addresses, Twitter accounts – maybe even multiple numbers using Google Voice – but everything could pour into a single contact point. Making your whole life completely mobile and completely synchronistic.

So far I’ve written this post as a data geek, someone who wants to help brands see the whole world as a sample, and market to the individual – this system would certainly help do that.

But privacy-wise, how would we fare? I’m sure over the next five years we’ll find out… *gulp*.