Facebook says the phone number is dead

By Alex Wood 8 January 2016
Image: chekyfoto/istock

Should you be worried?

When’s the last time you swapped mobile numbers with a new contact? Face it, the days of punching in all 11 digits onto your keypad and hitting save are long gone. We now search Facebook or Linkedin to make a new connection.

Is the phone number dead and gone? Facebook thinks so, as David Marcus, VP of Messaging Products wrote in a blog post this week. Facebook’s intentions are clear. The company wants to be at the centre of every aspect of your life, from work to home and even your memories, including the ones you would rather forget.

Control freak

In his post Marcus bragged the humble telephone number was on its way out in 2016 thanks to the success of Facebook Messenger, which now boasts over 800m active users.

The app has been one of the company’s most aggressive growth stories to date. Lest we forget in 2014 when Facebook strong-armed us all into downloading the app by removing the messages feature from the main mobile app. Back then we didn’t know we needed a separate app, but Facebook had the foresight to know how big a role it would play in the future.

If you are planning to be more mindful by cutting down on your phone notifications watch out for messenger, which is one of the worst offenders.

If you decide to disable notifications, it will nag you indefinitely like a clingy friend you would rather avoid at parties. Your options are limited to “Go to settings and turn on notifications” or “Remind me later”.

You aren’t given a choice, take the notifications or subject yourself to the endless reminders.

Who owns you?

Facebook points out you no longer need a Facebook account to use messenger, creating a “universal experience”, but this misses the point. Phone numbers may be old fashioned but they are not broken. They are for everybody, regardless of platform and free (relatively) from external control.

Try sending a Facebook message to somebody in internet-censored China or to the 26% of Britain’s adult population without a smartphone. Or to someone in a rural area who struggle to get a mobile signal, let alone 3G.

Connecting with new contacts over Facebook or Linkedin is convenient and makes sense. But this about more than just messaging, it’s about being at the centre of your world.

This bloated app can already make payments, phone calls, video calls, orders Ubers and chats with businesses and this is just the beginning.

Is the future one where Facebook sits at the very centre of our lives with Messenger at the core?

If it is, the phone number is well and truly dead. But what will we have lost?