Years ago in the not so distant past there used to be these little black books we all carried around that held in them names, addresses and phone numbers. Ah, yes we called them address books and phone books. To those of us not well endowed with the gift of memorization, these little books were very, very important. Ok, you know I am being facetious. Along with the demise of these little black books (I personally see the iphone/ipad as the death knell), there is also a big trend, in fact a marketing trend, that we don’t need to remember much about who we know, where we go online, who we email in order to contact others. Why is this important? Well if you look at the recent trend of social bookmarking, social media and sharing sites, like Addthis.com, you are seeing a new paradigm emerging where we don’t need to know this contact information anymore. In other words, social networking and other kinds of sites are becoming the conduit for our contact information. The question is how and why can you capitalize on this trend.
Phone Numbers, Cell Phones & PDAs Start The Know Nothing Trend
Let’s step back a bit. I had been in the cell phone business back in the 90s, when the first internal phone books emerged. They were good and you could choose from a list of people to call, but when you broke, lost your phone or upgraded, you had to go through the painful move your contacts over process. But long before cell phones, landline phones, the old phone companies had those 10 digit numbers you had to remember. I am saying “had” because I believe phone numbers one day will be so obfuscated, you won’t need to know a number. In fact maybe you just say a name and your smart device finds that person.
When the Palm emerged (how soon we forget) it had all kinds of contact information apps on it. When the Palm merged with a cellphone, we were ecstatic. We would no longer need to keep that litttle black book for phone numbers. We still had to keep the address book around for the written addresses and some emails at that time. In the late 2000s as the phones got smarter, we were able to keep our contact list, integrate lists eventually with things like Google and Gmail. This made it possible when I lost a phone to get back at least an old copy of my contacts. But we were not free of having to remember some information.
As a little side note here, we had put the Tell-A-Friend page on almost every site we built up until recently. The problem of course with Tell-A-Friend is, if you don’t remember their email address, you couldn’t tell a friend. So how close a friend were they. So in the early years of the web, you remembered all your friend’s email addresses and if you didn’t, you copied and pasted it from your email program. But this is where the little black book came out.
Google Throws A Life Line
Gmail was the first really great implementation of a technology that naturally offered up contact information, such as email addresses and names of previous email contacts in a way that was unobtrusive. It used a natural intelligence that was not dorky or difficult and did not bother you. Using my Gmail account, I would just start to type either an email address or a name and it would show the contacts I needed. You could still search Gmail and find it other ways. Now, the geeky at-heart will email me and tell me that there were others before Gmail with this capability. I am sure of that. But this is the place I remember losing my “email” mind and not having to add email addresses to my little black book. I think it was around 2003 or so for me, but it doesn’t matter. What is important is I don’t know your email address if you asked me now!
Make It So Linkedin! Now We Don’t Have To Remember Ourselves
The emergence of Linkedin.com is much more than just a place for our business info and contact info. It created a place where we could put our resume information and not really have to maintain a physical resume. We are not totally there yet, but it is the beginning of another little piece of paper shoved into my little black book going away. The critical aspect of LinkedIn is it allowed people to change jobs, lose their primary email address, and keep in contact with you regardless. If you are LinkedIn with somebody, they can change their email address and life is good again. You don’t lose them. Next time you login to LinkedIn they have a different email address but life goes on just the same for your contact relationship. And the ability to use LinkedIn to communicate to you with “send them a message” changed the game. This small innovation in the business world has made it so even my little Gmail artificial intelligence is not that important anymore. The ability to contact and communicate within these types of applications was well underway with the big daddy of them all coming to town, Facebook.com
Social Networks, Honey Where’d My Brain Go?
So now that Facebook is upon us and seemingly consuming 90% of the online time of people who seem to have all the time in the world for Facebook, a second phase of this trend is now kicking in. We no longer need to remember not just phone numbers or email addresses. We don’t even have to remember our friend’s names. When you share a link or webpage on the web and you use one of the many sharing mechanisms, like Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, Vimeo, and there are others, life has gotten easy to ping somebody. If you use Facebook sharing to share you can send your message by searching for a face now, right? That conceptually means that you don’t need to remember anybody’s name anymore. And I see this trend increasing as Facebook logins and other types of sharing mechanisms seem to be everywhere these days.
The Final Frontier: Smarter Devices Means You Can Be Even Dumber!
When you got your first iPhone and you logged in to iTunes, and you downloaded your first Angry Birds app, the trend became apparent. You did not have to enter your email address each time. Just enter a password. Apple knows who you are, your contact info and basically we don’t need to know ourselves (email-wise). The whole concept of remembering your email address is becoming less important. Once you are on an iPad you don’t need to enter your email address to get on a list with an app. You buy things through iTunes. And if you use Words With Friends by Zynga you interact with people that you don’t really know and your contact info is embedded somewhere on a hard drive in the cloud (“the keyword for India hard drive storage”). So smart devices are making it so we don’t need to even know who we are.
Well, I have no crystal ball, but obviously Facebooking your way around the web, using Facebook to contact and communicate is here to stay. The smart devices to me represent a major change in how and where this contact info lies. I noticed recently in my Android phone that I can sync my contacts with Gmail and/or the main company I use so I don’t lose it. I guess in the near future some of these mechanisms many cross paths either through mergers, acquisitions or just a central control system, like the old phone company.