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Contact directory makes it easier to keep in touch

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A Web-based directory designed to make it easier to keep in touch is launched today.

The oNumber Universal Directory allows subscribers, who choose a unique one-to-10 digit number on sign-up, to input a thumbnail photograph along with personal and contact information into the directory. To access an online profile, contacts would visit www.oNumber.net/xxxxx (where xxxxx is the relevant oNumber) or search by a person's name or other details.

Users can then distribute their number to everyone they know, sparing them the hassle of informing friends and acquaintances whenever their details alter. Using any Web-accessible device, the owners can edit their profile.

Items considered 'private' can be locked, so they can only be read by members of a user's guest list, who also need to be subscribers to the service (this sounds like a snag to us).

The service has been built using Microsoft ASP and SQL server technology but has been designed to be viewed using handheld devices or GPRS mobiles, as well as PCs. Businesses can use the service to advertise essential information, which can be searched for and read by consumers on the move.

Alex Blok, founder of O'Wonder, which developed oNumber, concedes the usefulness of the service is tied to the number of subscribers but said at £14.95 for a five-year renewable listing the service is affordable even for students. The service is not tied to any particular technology and is more convenient than alternatives, according to Blok.

Services such as ihavemoved.com, which informs utilities when someone changes address, differ from oNumber because they push information to interested parties, instead of establishing a central point of contact for friends or business associates.

oNumber.net's privacy policy states it will refuse to sell subscriber information or include advertising on the site.

This still leaves the questions of whether spammers, debt collectors or other ne'er do wells could gain useful intelligence by running a Perl script to fillet openly accessible data from the site.

Blok recognises that this is an issue but - short of keeping everything private - he doesn't see an easy way around this. Convenient Web-based access and privacy are awkward bedfellows, even at the best of times... ®

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