The Future of Phone Numbers
Lauren Leto

Ummm… a US phone number is just a label, which is looked up in a hierarchy of tables, to find a destination device. Signaling System 7 — which was just a computer hanging off the side of a big phone switch — gave the system programmability, such as sending a particular 800 number to the nearest of many possible destinations, or a service we used to have at work where your work-desk, home-office, and cell phone all rang simultaneously when your special number was called. Oh, and the 1980s vintage Bell Labs one-off in the early days of Unix, where if you were logged in at a terminal anywhere in the building and the phone was ringing at your desk, you’d get a message on your screen asking if you’d like the call transferred to where you were.

What you describe sounds like an app — an app that would run in the cloud, not locally on your phone — which becomes the destination when your US phone number is used, and which would then do all the filtering and prioritizing you describe, and put the call/text/chat/cat video through to wherever you actually were. Making the app always-on the way phones are would be hard, but important, since you’d be cut off from the world if some extortionist DDOS’ed the app provider or the infrastructure they used.

Me? I prefer IPv6 addresses. At least in theory I could burn a separate IPv6 address every time I gave someone “my number”, and selectively block that address if someone turned out to be a spammer or abusive. But yes, that 10 digit US phone number will be with us for a long, long time.

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