A Smarter Contact File


As new technologies are made, they seem to leave old technologies behind, stagnant and in the distance. Take for example the contact information that is used for web services like iCloud or Gmail. The contacts list and its data are manually created by users. Eventually, a long, precious, list of people is made. But every time one of those people gets a new phone number, or moves to a new apartment, or gets a new job with a new email address, you have to update that information manually. Except most people don't update that information, or there are several contact entries for the same person, or the contact information simply isn't recorded. The user scratches their head and pains to remember their address every time they need to send them an email.

But then you look at something like Facebook. With Facebook, the user doesn't have to know anything besides the name of the person they're trying to contact. And if you're wondering what someone's workplace is, look no further than their constantly up-to-date profile page.

So why isn't your collection of contacts on Gmail, iCloud, or Outlook that intelligent? Why is it that contact cards aren't updated automatically based on what you're contacts chose to share? I think they should, and here's how.

When you're creating a new contact, the first entry would be a username. Once you enter the person's username, the contact card would automatically fill with the information that that person allows to be seen by the public. A button would appear that says "request contact information." Once tapped, the person who you're trying to add would get a prompt saying that you want access to their info (just like a friend request). They approve, and you're phone downloads their (constantly up to date) contact information.

Unfortunately, this technology would inevitably be proprietary. But because most people have accounts on more than one service, that probably wouldn't be a huge impediment. 

There is clearly a hybrid of this system today; iOS allows for its users to sync their Facebook and Twitter accounts with their contact list. But you have to update the content manually and the experience is far from ideal. 

If companies like Apple and Google would take a few notes from their social networking buddies, customers would probably be a lot happier.