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Could 2016 be the year we see the humble telephone number disappear for good? In a blog post from a Facebook executive this prediction tops the list of five big trends the company believes will happen in 2016 as social media user names could replace lengthy combinations of digits.
Facebook's vice president of messaging products David Marcus wrote a post detailing the social network's plans for its chat app, Facebook Messenger, in 2016 along with a list of five prophetic trends users could see in the imminent future.
Marcus claims "the disappearance of the phone number" will be the top trend as a result of old-communications styles beginning to phase out with the rise of new communications tools such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Viber (although he didn't mention the last two, obviously).
"Think about it: SMS and texting came to the fore in the time of flip phones. Now, many of us can do so much more on our phones; we went from just making phone calls and sending basic text-only messages to having computers in our pockets. And just like the flip phone is disappearing, old communication styles are disappearing too," Marcus wrote.
There's certainly validity to his case. Traditional phone numbers have seen a decline in importance thanks to the mobile phone and its ability to let you call your contacts without having to manually type in their number. In fact we struggle to reel off more than a handful of our contacts' number, let alone those people we've just met.
It's far easier to remember a person's name rather than their phone number and should you lose your mobile phone and not have saved your contacts it can be a nightmare trying to restore your phone book. If everyone was able to simply use their social media user name as their phone number it would make life a lot easier as "you can make video and voice calls while at the same time not needing to know someone's phone number".
It's already happening now. If you want to try to contact someone but aren't able to get hold of their number people can just jump on Facebook or Twitter to drop them a message. Of course, phone numbers are private pieces of information we give out to those we trust but as with Facebook Messenger you can only contact people who you're already connected with.
When will we see the phone number disappear?
We very much doubt we'll see that happen in 2016. Giving someone your number will eventually be a thing of the past but those unique numerical identifiers are still crucial. What about those who don't have a mobile phone or who aren't on social media? Then there's contacting businesses and services – would we have to accept to be friends on social media in order to order a pizza? While businesses might be licking their lips at the thought, we're not.
The blog post champions how the social network has been significantly improving the way we communicate but the idea of killing off the phone number won't happen anytime soon.