Has phone number met its waterloo? Facebook predicts phone digits will die in 2016
Are phone numbers heading the way of pagers, fax machines and landlines that used to rely on them? David Marcus, head of Facebook Messenger thinks so. In a blog post, Marcus predicted that 2016 will mark the end of phone numbers.
Telephone numbers came into existence in 1879 when a local doctor thought of them for the first time. The use of telephone numbers instead of subscriber names to indicate to the telephone operator what destination line a caller wished to be connected to was developed and first used in the autumn of 1879 in Lowell, Massachusetts during a measles epidemic.
Moses Greeley Parker, a local doctor, realized that if all four of the city’s operators were incapacitated by the epidemic, their replacements would have great trouble quickly learning which of the switchboard’s 200 jacks were assigned to which subscribers. He recommended the use of numbers instead.
“The local Bell company management at first protested that its customers would consider their designation by numbers to be beneath their dignity; nevertheless, it saw the logic of the doctor’s suggestion and followed it. The subscribers were not outraged; the epidemic quickly passed, but telephone numbers did not.”
Marcus is not the only one who predicts the death of the humble telephone number. Jonah Berger, Wharton professor and author of “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” agrees.
“For most of us, I think it’s really hard to actually remember what someone’s phone number actually is,” Berger said. “We use our phones so often or we click on a button that has it. But if there was a test where you had to say, do you remember your best friends number or could you type in your best friend’s number I think most of us would fail.”
While all may not agree to Berger and Marcus, history is on their side. Rotary dial and flip phone have all but disappeared and many old communication styles could be disappearing too. Now we can do so much more with our phones. We went from just making phone calls and sending basic text-only messages to having computers in our pockets.
“Are we less likely to use the phone than ever before? Certainly and usage of phones and phone calls particularly young people is definitely decreasing,” Berger concluded.
Marcus has a different explanation for the possible annihilation of phone digits. Facebook messenger is one of the largest messenger apps in the world with 800 million users. Users can talk, send text messages, photos, videos, and even money to one another- and they don’t need to know a person’s phone number to do it on Messenger. Marcus predicts that with FB Messenger and many more Apps like it, users wont need the humble digits again.
Do you agree?