Why do we have to remember phone numbers?

Lets say that you meet someone at a party named Paris Hyatt, and you want to contact that person. Great, she gives you her phone number. Ready? 742-594-6734. Woah, I cant remember that. Can you tell me again & Ill type it in my cell phone?

Lets say that you then meet someone else named London Sheraton. You also want to contact this person, but she says just go to londonsheraton.com. Great, thats easy to remember.

Now, londonsheraton.com maps to an IP address like, but London didnt have to tell you that.

Similarly, Paris shouldnt have needed to tell you 742-594-6734. She should have been able to give you a friendly phone number like parishyatt.com.

In other words, phone numbers are like IP addresses. They expose a technical detail of the old phone system (e.g. 212 used to physically tell the switches to route to New York) that we shouldnt have to deal with. So just like the DNS system for IP addresses, we should have a DNS system for phone numbers. So I can literally dial londonsheraton.com.

SIP helps because you can call london@londonsheraton.com, but that doesnt apply to most phones. ENUM solves this by mapping +1-202-555-1234 to, assuming that you set up a DNS mapping from friendlyname.com to that .arpa address. So were almost there


3 thoughts on “Why do we have to remember phone numbers?

  1. Anonymous

    These examples make DNS seem like a workable solution, but there are way more people in this world than Internet sites. Look at AIM or hotmail.com as an example; due to collisions, everyone has names like j0e32177; ugh. I think a search engine would go a long way towards making this system practical.Perhaps Bluetooth could be used to continously publish a user’s contact information; one could then harvest this information for everyone in a room, or continuously throughout the day. Great for parties and meetings but the doom of “missed connections” on craigslist.Or perhaps in the future each phone will be embedded with an RFID tag which cannot be read at a range of more than a few centimeters, and/or without a “shake” or “bump” of the phone. Users could then “knock” their phones together quickly to exchange contact information.Kaya

  2. Ray

    Good point about the # of web sites vs. # of phones. But people do come up with interesting, memorable domain names, not joe32177. It’d work better if we had a good international domain name system.

  3. Ray

    Oh — re: your RFID comment, there’s a group that’s working on something related to that — Near Field Communication.


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