So after 18 months of retaining my UK phone while living in the US, I finally got tired of paying £30 a month for absolutely nothing and killed the contract. It ends next week.
Why did I keep it for so long? Well, for one, I didn’t expect to stay in the States all that long. I figured ICANN would drive me nuts within a year and I’d move back to Blighty. Plus I didn’t want to rely on just a work phone for contact with friends and family. And lastly I didn’t want to lose my telephone number – 07932 783686 – which I have had for over a decade.
Well, I am still at ICANN and so still in the States and I didn’t use my UK phone because to use it over here was prohibitively expensive. I don’t rely on just my work phone for contact – I mostly use Skype to contact friends and family (it’s free and it comes with moving pictures). And as for losing the number… Well I am the proud owner of a .tel domain name.
In fact, due to my name being slightly unusual, I have kieren.tel.
The .tel top-level domain is a novel and interesting use of the domain name system (DNS) in that it stores information directly in the DNS i.e there is no website associated with it. You go through a special admin system that .tel runs and stick up your contact details – phone numbers, addresses, websites etc – and it sticks it directly into the Internet’s infrastructure.
The beauty of this is that I can update my contact details very simply, it updates very quickly, and all the details can be accessed by anything whatsoever that can connect to the DNS (which is basically every modern electronic device). What’s more, the download is very, very small so it is very, very fast.
And so that’s how I plan to keep in touch and how I hope everyone will be able to keep in touch with me. Just go to http://kieren.tel and you’ll see all my contact information.
All that said, I do foresee some potential problems with .tel in the future. For one, I’m not sure what impact having my details out there will have. Because it’s in the DNS, it is searchable and scrapeable. I am monitoring to see if I am swamped with spam (or the mobile phone variety).
I wonder if it will make my websites a target for automated spamming and so on. There may be some issues with privacy. But so far it’s worked well and I am confident I’ll figure something out.
Another problem while I’m here was that Vodafone – my UK mobile provider – was an unbelievable pain in the arse while I was trying to end my contract. It took me literally two weeks, six emails and three phonecalls to end my contract. And even then they kept insisting that I might want to reconsider. I don’t know whether their system has broken down, or if management is purposefully turning a blind eye to a system breakdown (or not fixing it) because it means profits in hard times, but I am not happy about it.
Incidentally, Vodafone also accidentally forgets to take things off your bill with remarkable consistency. Add-ons are something that is charged and then automatically refunded on your bill if you don’t want them i.e. there is the implicit assumption of being charged for services unless you actively say no.
Anyway, that gripe aside – go to kieren.tel And ponder if you want to get a .tel domain too. They are more expensive than a dotcom – typically around $20 where as dotcoms are usually half that (if you can find one you want). And not every registrar sells .tel domins (around 150 or the 950 or so registrars do – full list here).
But you don’t have the hassle and expense of building a website, and it serves a useful purpose. Plus, if this takes off, I can foresee people building apps for it that link into iPhones etc. We shall see.