The only problem was that computers and phones were different devices. Computers had no use for phone numbers, since they were capable of using real URLs and e-mail addresses to communicate. Phones had no use for URLs or e-mail addresses, because they had the old reliable tried-and-true phone number.
In the recent Apple Keynote address, a massive tectonic shift in communications technology took place, and it happened without much attention being brought to it at all. The Apple iPhone highlights and makes phone numbers clickable, just like URLs.
Now it seems like a simple, even unremarkable feature of a device that at first seems far more concerned with music playlists, Johnny Depp and aerial views of the Colosseum in Rome. But as we’ve often seen, the most remarkable technologies and innovations are often overlooked, literally, when first introduced.
Clicking on a phone number just like an e-mail address is a feature which almost requires a timpani roll. Oh sure, other mobile phones may or may not have had this feature before, but until Steve Jobs clicked on a phone number in an e-mail and the sound of a phone ringing was heard in the Moscone Auditorium, the real ramifications of the phone number as URL were scarcely understood beyond speculation.
What is the ultimate difference between e-mail and voice mail? What’s the difference between text messaging and e-mail? What’s the difference between e-mail and a blog? Phone numbers as URLs don’t just blur the differences between these various communications technologies, they remove the differences. At some point in the future, by leveraging this lack of difference, it may be possible to truly unify communications so that there is no longer any such thing as a “phone number” or “e-mail address.” There may be a point where people communicate with each other via one “URL” which adapts based on the type of message: voice or text.
Then again, with the iPhone there’s very little difference between computers and phones now, so it stands to reason the distinction between communications technologies would begin to diminish. The iPhone was introduced as a “Internet Communicator.”
Internet Communicator indeed.