Most of us have, at one time or another, dreamed of escaping it all and disappearing to a Caribbean island or a log cabin in the mountains for some peace and tranquility. While this particular dream will elude most of us (and would probably get a little dull after a couple of weeks), those who value their privacy may want to look to the new dot TEL name to provide it.
If you yearn for a world without SPAM; a world without telemarketing calls; a world where you control who can contact you and who cannot, then dot TEL is definitely worth a look.
Normally when people talk about the dot TEL, it’s in the context of ‘connecting for life’ or being ‘easier to find’. This is true. A dot TEL allows you to attach all of your contact information to a single name like JohnSmith.tel, so you have one simple name to give to people, from which they can get all your contact information, whether though a web page, cell phone or other internet enabled device. Anytime you update your contact information, the updates are automatically propagated to anyone you’ve given your dot TEL name to, so you never lose contact.
At the same time, you can decide exactly who sees what information, so friends and family may be able to see more personal information than business connections or acquaintances.
Setting the Stage: Depreciation of the Phone Number (and other Contact Details)
When was the last time you visited http://126.96.36.199/? Chances are it was less than 10 minutes ago. It’s the IP address associated with Google.com (one of many, as Google is so popular). In the late 80’s and early 90’s it was quite normal to enter IP addresses instead of domain names, especially in academic circles, when people were starting play with the web and put up their own sites.
The DNS (Domain Name System) maps easy to remember names like Google.com to IP addresses like 188.8.131.52; but, ultimately it’s the IP address that identifies the specific host computer to connect to. It’s hard to believe that it took more than two and a half years to register the first 100 .COM names, but now that we’re there, who’d want to go back to remembering numbers?
Just like IP addresses, telephone numbers are the mechanism by which we connect to other parties and just like IP addresses, it’s a good system – but it doesn’t make them easy to remember.
Personally, I don’t care what Google’s IP address is. It’s a detail that doesn’t help me accomplish my goal. Similarly, I don’t care what my daughter’s cell phone number is – I just want to be able to reach her easily. One of the reasons I like the cell phone so much is I can simply “Call Grace Mobile” and I’m done. I’m happy if the underlying mechanism that enables me to achieve my goal stays hidden from me – whether it be a number, an e-mail address, an Instant Messaging ID, profile URL for a social site or any other mechanism that allows me to connect.
“Call Grace”, “E-mail Grace”, “Message Grace”, “Map Grace” – it makes a lot more sense.
Execution: Escaping the Grid
Chances are that if you’ve had your number or e-mail address for a while, you receive SPAM and marketing calls, despite best efforts of legislation and initiatives like the Do Not Call Registry . Enter dot TEL and all of that could be a thing of the past.
Here’s the plan:
I have lane.tel. It’s easy to remember and I can attach all of my contact information – both business and personal. It’s on my business card for convenience and I can give it to someone in a conversation. My hope is eventually to have it as the only listed item in the White Pages and other directories.
If you were to lookup lane.tel (after February 25th, when .TEL names go live) on your smart phone or browser, you’ll see only the public information I elect to share with everyone – my name, title, business name, business phone (switchboard only) and corporate web site (I don’t want to be completely off the grid).
Anyone wanting more information would need to send me a friending request. This can be done directly off the web page or through the smart phone. I am notified by e-mail of all requests and can evaluate each one and assign it to a privacy group I’ve set up that determines what information you’ll be able to see. If I receive a request from a business connection, they’ll be able to see my work e-mail, my direct dial number, business profiles (LinkedIn) and additional business information. For friends and family, the information will include my home number, mobile, social media profiles, etc.
All non-public information is protected by 1024 bit encryption. To put this in context, there are teams of security experts out there with the expressed goal of cracking this encryption. According to the security team at Kaspersky, it would take 15 million modern computers, running for about a year to crack. I like to think of this as some hacker with a laptop waiting 15 million years to discover my e-mail address.
So my friends, family and business connections now have my .TEL. They can “Call Matt”, “E-mail Matt”, etc and if I ever move, change my e-mail, lose my cell phone, the specific contact details change, but since they’re automatically propagated, my contacts can simply “Call Matt” and “E-mail Matt” and probably wouldn’t know or care that my numbers have changed.
And that’s the plan. Get a .TEL, attach my contact details, distribute my .TEL and then change any numbers, e-mail accounts, etc that I don’t want known in the public domain. It doesn’t preclude me being contacted and I remain visible through the presence of my .TEL name – but only people I authorise know my details.
I know it’s not a perfect plan. It’s a hassle to change contact details and since my contacts can see my details, it’s relatively easy for the information to get back into the public domain. Spamming and telemarketing also include random and sequential mechanisms that ‘guess’ at addresses and numbers, but still, it’s a step in the right direction and gives me back control of my own information.