What’s your phone number? Why should that question mean anything at all?
Phone numbers are a holdover from an era of mechanical rotary switches. Each phone connected to your central office (all 9999 of you) was assigned a number. When that got full, we put in a new central office with a three digit prefix (255-9999). And when we ran out of those, we assigned area codes, then country codes.
Today phone calls are processed by silicon rather than iron, phones are mostly computers that can also reproduce sound, and the connections between phones are webs of Internet traffic instead of point-to-point copper. And, since every device can potentially talk to every other device, we don’t need phone numbers anymore or, coincidentally, phone companies either.
In case you don’t follow telephony, a relatively new protocol called DUNDi (Distributed Universal Number Discovery) is being rolled out with new phone systems which enables your phone (firstname.lastname@example.org) to find me (email@example.com) and call me directly over the Internet.
Of course, the people that argue over standards will continue to argue over this one, so the future might not be exactly DUNDi, but the handwriting is on the wall. After 100 years of phone numbers, things will change slowly so don’t get rid of your coveted (415) number that ends in 0000 just yet, but it’s coming.