“An address book or a name and address book is a book or a database used for storing entries called contacts. (Wikipedia.org).

The history of the concept of an address book goes back until the earliest written remains of human civilization. Lists of people in order to collect taxes or conduct a census are found all over the world and changed substantially in the different ages. The first addresses on these lists described the person as “son of” and pointed to some landmark like “of the valley” in order to describe a person with its contact details. Only in the 9th century, people in Venice started to inherit last names, or family names and this habit spread all over Europe. On a world wide level, family names are a very young concept. In Indonesia, for instance, it is still not common to have a last name.

I would describe contact details as attributes that point out characteristics of a person and help identifying them. As I described in my last blog post, the tricky thing about these attributes is: They change! Not only numbers and places change, but also things like gender, names and (believe it or not) birth dates can change. Social insurance numbers and citizen identifiers have a long lifetime, but are not valid on a global level. Nobody would ever add his insurance number in its phonebook to identify a person. Only the sum of all identifiers makes up the equivalent of a “real” person in your address book.

Source: shutterstock/daniaphoto

Source: shutterstock/daniaphoto

The concept of a “contact” is even a step further. A contact is more than just a list of identifiers for a person, it also includes how I could possible get in contact with it. If I add a postal address, I can write a letter. If I add an email-address, I can write an email. If I add a Facebook name, I can add the contact in my Facebook profile. It’s the combination of identifier and platform that enables the person to contact me and become one of my “contacts”. – These platforms can change over time. Some think emails will exist forever, but not everyone would bet on it.

The combination of changing identifiers and changing platforms has to be seen in a time context. Not all identifiers and platforms will change at the same moment. Phone numbers change more often than names and email-addresses change never for some people, but quite often for others. So from time to time some things change and we want to make sure, that all people we know are being updated about these changes.

But is this true? Do we really want to share our new identifiers with people we know? That’s something I work on in my next blog post.

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