Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Ask HN: Why are online phone number lookup systems so FN horrid?
2 points by samstave 25 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 8 comments
Every single site is malware/spam - there is no way to look up a random number reliably.

Any insights on HN on this problem?

I have had precisely ONE "this is not a spammer, this is your friend you forgot the name of" outcome from reverse number lookup. All the rest were spam.

This space is toxic but the underlying problem is the tension between individual privacy (DNC and off-directory numbers) and public-commons good.

That, and the truly bizarre decisions made regarding CLID in the payload and as presented by the apps: Why do we let people lie about sender-ID? This is like MANRS in BGP (Internet routing) -we shouldnt' allow injection of lies at origin.

Hard to police but high benefit (like BCP38/MANRS)

Sites paid for by advertisers can also be paid for by malvertisers... Some are OK, endure the ads. Some try to seed malware - be wary. Ever since the local land line telcos stopped free number lookup, people hunted for other free - and that was what was dealt us. There are good subscription based systems, but they are not worth the cost if you only need 1-2 numbers/month looked up. They need a micropayment system, say charge you 10cents to look up a number and they bill you once a year or when you reach 50 numbers? Micropayments need to be under a penny for pay as you go 10 cent fees - 1 penny is 10%. With cost of com0puting and storage low, I bet the visa of the world you operate on a half cent on a 10 cent fully online buy - will they???

> Any insights on HN on this problem?

In HN lingo - where's the product/market fit? Who are the "customers" who'll pay to have this problem solved? How much will they pay, and how often? Will they recommend it to others in a viral growth mechanism?

Who's going to build a free non-spam version of that, how are they going to resource/monetise it?

I'd bet good money that what you want exists, but requires a subscription. How much would you personally pay for access to a non fucked version of this? (Or alternatively, can you imagine a market for the search data that you could sell on to pay for development/hosting/profit to run this? Maybe phone scammers would pay you for access to the list for numbers consumers are looking up?)

There used to be a thing called a phone book that would be placed on my door step (and my family doorstep as a kid). How about however that was funded just be done the same way online?

Where I am, the "white pages" was paid for by the (single) phone company, who were incentivised to do that because there was no other readily available way for you to find the number you needed to call someone. Phones didn't store all your contact details and numbers. These were monetised by having phone owners call more other phones, hence spending more money with the telco than they would have otherwise.

There was also the "pink pages" which was privately own4ed/run, which only listed businesses, and monetised by leaving your business out (often while lying to you about all your competitors paying for listings) or by offering larger ad spaces to paid listings with just basic names/address/phone number listings if you didn't pay. These were monetised as basic "pay to be listed" or freemium/promoted listings.

Neither of those two business models survived the web and smart phones. These days 99.9+% of the numbers I call just come out of my contact list. I probably got those numbers by asking people, saving their caller id number when they called me, or I found it on their email sig or website.

Neither of those two business models provide an obvious way to monetise people who say "I have this phone number, and I want to know who it is, but I don't want to call it up and ask (or I did that and they wouldn't tell me or I don't believe them)."

it always has been.

one thing i noticed more recently is the language used; before, you'd search "867-5309" and get the usual wording like "Looking for 867-5309?", now it's "WHAT THE HELL DID 867-5309 DO?!?!??!" or worse :D

And they show you every phone number in that prefix except the one you're looking for.

This is just the ghetto of the internet and its extremely frustrating. I don't know how to solve this - I just don't understand why it is like this?

Money. Most (all?) of those site link on to for-pay "find everything about 555-1234, including their social sites!!!" pages

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact