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Social networking federation: why not use .tel?

An interesting and potentially useful feature of some recent handsets has been the integration of standard mobile phone contacts lists with the user's social networking contacts lists. The most notable propagators of this functionality have been manufacturers of Android handsets — in particular, HTC with its Sense user interface and Motorola with its Motoblur UI.

An interesting and potentially useful feature of some recent handsets has been the integration of standard mobile phone contacts lists with the user's social networking contacts lists. The most notable propagators of this functionality have been manufacturers of Android handsets — in particular, HTC with its Sense user interface and Motorola with its Motoblur UI.

The basic idea is to be able to look up a contact and see not only their phone number, but also their latest Facebook status update and Twitter post. This kind of functionality is logical and indeed a Very Clever Idea given the rapidly changing nature of communication media.

However, there is a problem. Let's say you pick up the HTC Hero, which uses the Sense UI, and you want to integrate your friend's various online identities into one easy-to-peruse screen. You can do it, but you have to do it friend-by-friend. Many people have hundreds of phone contacts and hundreds of Facebook friends — it's an almighty schlep to match them all up.

The scenario becomes even less attractive when you consider that your next handset might come from another company, and you might have to go through the whole manufacturer-specific-integration thing again.

What is needed is some kind of federated identity scheme. Yes, I know, there are plenty out there (and none have taken off in any significant way), but there is one in particular that is just begging to be used for the federation of social networking personae: .tel.

The top level domain, which launched last year, is unique among TLDs in that it does not automatically redirect the web surfer anywhere — instead, it uses the DNS itself as a repository for the registrant's basic contact details, including social networking profile links.

Why can't the social networking websites and the handset-makers all plug into this information? It's all very good to have this online business-card stuff, but let's face it, it's hardly going to be anyone's first port of call when looking up a contact. The searcher's mobile phone, however, will be their primary source of information.

Anyway, it's just a thought…