The Google of online phone books

September 9, 2008, 4:43 PM UTC

By Michal Lev-Ram

SAN DIEGO – First there was .com. Then came .org, .biz, .mobi. Soon you’ll be able to add .tel to the list.

The new suffix, created by a London-based company called Telnic, will allow people to store all their contact information in one virtual place. The company unveiled .tel at the DEMO startup conference now underway in San Diego and the service becomes available for companies on Dec. 3 and for individuals on Feb. 3.

Here’s how the online phonebook will work: Just like with other websites, users will first need to register their domain name (say, via a registrar like GoDaddy. (Telnic says annual fees will probably cost around $20 to $30.) They then enter their contact information – including e-mail, phone numbers, link to their Facebook profile and other information. Then, when anyone accesses their .tel page – simply by typing – they will see that person’s contact information on one page.

Sounds easy enough, but who would want to pay money to store all of their contact information online and make it available to the world at large?

Telnic believes .tel will appeal to both everyday consumers who want a simple, updatable contact page and businesses looking to make themselves more “discoverable.”

Of course, some people won’t always want to be discovered. That’s why .tel customers will be able to update their information online at any time and give access to certain phone numbers or e-mail addresses to just a closed network of friends. They can also set their .tel domain to show different numbers during the day and at night, and show their geographic location on a map that will appear on their page. Unlike a regular website, you won’t need any technological know-how to get set up with a .tel contact page.

The company says it’s purpose is to become a “destination to store and maintain contact information for (ultimately) every individual and corporate entity on Earth” – a Googlian goal, to say the least. While .tel may provide people with a simple way to keep their details in one place, it will likely be a challenge to get people to adopt yet another suffix, not to mention enter in their e-mail addresses, phone numbers and social networking profiles on yet another form.

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