I believe the next generation address book – or contact management play – will have more in common with oAuth data providers than with the traditional rolodex. Yet it will need to be as easy to use as the existing contact book or application that you use today.
The next generation contact management solution needs to provide a few basic services: portability, security, and syndication. What exactly do I mean by these ideas?
It’s simple – portability means the ability to move your data easily from one system to another. Currently we have lousy data silo solutions like vCard, SIM card contact, physical Address Books, or data solutions guarded by identity providers like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook that allow you limited access to all of the data in your contacts and give you limited ways to get them out (like CSV) – stay at the Hotel Contact California – and never leave.
Security is a much more complicated idea for contact management, and this is where many systems have gotten stuck. Do you advocate an open model – where everyone sees everyone else’s data – or something really closed, where you can only see someone’s data given the right combination of a public and private key or other multi-factor auth?
Most people would agree that some of the situations are appropriate given the need for the security of the contact information: you wouldn’t freely share a secret phone number for a celebrity or government official because if you did, they’d need a new “secret” phone number immediately.
On the other hand there is a legitimate need for security and it would be nice to be able to determine who can see your information – and who can’t. Yet we should also acknowledge (thank you) that absolute security of contact data is quite impossible for most of us unless we spend a lot of money and time that we don’t have to secure it.
And in an era of truly social and portable data, one needs syndication – or the ability to share and update the canonical copy of your contact information – to get the word out that your phone number changed given that you want people to talk you or contact you.
So, is there a solution? I think that by co-opting the practices ofto individual data, that it might be possible for an individual to manage the flow of their information in the world – using oAuth or another method along with a simple terms of service agreement – with the goal of asking users of that information (the data brokers who are looking at this post or anything you do online right now) to acknowledge and/or compensate with micropayments access to your updated contact information.
What’s in it for me? you ask. If this worked, you might be able to decide which vendors get to market to you, and they might gain valuable additional targeting information about you as a marketing segment. You might even get paid. It’s worth a shot, don’t you think?