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Phone Number For Life? Not Quite

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[qi:90] Update: A few weeks after Google bought GrandCentral for many millions, there are some changes afoot at the service. There is word that some GrandCentral users who had signed up for a phone number for life are finding out that it isn’t exactly the case, and are being told that their numbers are going to change on August 25, 2007.

Judi Sohn, who edits WebWorkerDaily and has been a long time fan of GrandCentral got an email from the GrandCentral team letting her know that her number will be changed as of August 25, 2007. She was fuming, but not anymore: Google-owned GrandCentral (GOOG) will pay for reprinting her business cards. [digg=]

Troy Schneider also had the Google-owned GrandCentral change the number on him. He is not too happy!

I wouldn’t be either. These kind of changes are risk you take when you test out Web 2.0 products, or rely on a start-up that gets gobbled up by a big company. It is also the risk I take when recommending a service to my readers. GrandCentral-Google in their email say only a small number of users are being impacted. Are you one of them?

Update: I accidentally left the comments closed last night by mistake. I apologize for that.

Vincent Paquet, co-founder of GrandCentral emailed and let me know (he wanted to post a response in the comments, but they were closed.)

There are 434 users affected by this change and unfortunately we would have had the same issue had Google not acquired GrandCentral. One of our pre-acquisition underlying carriers stops providing services to certain areas and this does affect a few of our users. I understand those users’s frustration and share it. I know that no explanation will change this, but we have provided each of those users with an alternate number in the same area code and we’re happy to help, like in Judi’s case, to ease the pain of the transition when we can.

Aswath Rao had written about such an event happening almost a month ago.

50 Responses to “Phone Number For Life? Not Quite”

  1. John Roberts

    I just lost my number recently (within the last week, todays date 10/19/07). So it’s still happening and getting worse. I thought MS was evil; watch out for Google. LOOK – There – watch out, I warned you!

  2. joseanddave

    Agreed. If you’re willing to risk your business on a beta application, you should be willing to take the downside of that risk. GC / Google did an nice job picking up the tab. But there are tons of other unified communications services out there that are business read. Check out or J2 communications. These guys have been in the space a lot longer than GC and have services far beyond what GC offers. And imagine it…thousands and thousands of business customers.

  3. I did not get a notice of my number changing, but for some reason, many features on GrandCentral have not been working this week (submitting notes, reducing the details screen, downloading, etc). I’ve tried contacting support, but I have not gotten ANY response. I’m a bit disappointed, because previously, I’ve gotten GREAT customer service. I wonder if things are falling apart with the service?

  4. C’mon its a FREE phone number. I’ve had my GC number for almost a year without any problems. The few times that I had a couple of hiccups I got a prompt friendly reply from someone at the company. When’s the last time a phone company did that for you? I think some people need to lighten up. GC is a great service. Period.

  5. Excellent question vivc! I have been asking this very same question for quite sometime now. Why do we need numbers in today’s world? This is just one of many ways in which telephony has not shaken off its old-world rigidity. Sucks!

  6. The comments from Vincent Paquet and the letter they are sending to their customers don’t really match up. The letter says some numbers “are not performing to our quality standards and are being replaced with higher quality services” and Vincent says “one of our pre-acquisition underlying carriers stops providing services to certain areas”. That’s two different things really.

  7. @vivc – well, what a wonderfully shortsighted way of looking at things.

    Phone numbers ARE DNS. They are easy to remember virtual assignments to ‘physical’ addresses (in so much as an ip can be tied to a physical computer).

    The underlying coding system of a phone exchange is the similarity of an ip.

    phone number == dns.

    so, vanity phone numbers, like 555-n00b (I’ll see if it is available for you!) might perhaps be like sip usernames.

    Or proprietary voip network usernames. Like your skype name.

    Since you finished with abang, so shall I!

  8. I have a GC number and love the services. My number has not been affected. Now…if they would only allow me to set up a general incoming call auto attendant. It would completely blow away the virtual PBX market.

  9. Felix Wheatley

    Not to belabor the point, but can anybody recommend a useful place to ‘park’ a phone number? I would like to find a place I can put my number, and then have it autoforward to my flavor-of-the-day cell phone carrier. GC would do this, but they doesn’t accept existing numbers yet.

  10. as om said in the post, it’s a beta. That means, were it software, you shouldn’t be using it in a production environment. i’m not sure about the wisdom of making a beta product be responsible for your business use.

    however, the indsutry is getting itself in a bit of a bind by making things “betas” seemingly ad infinitum. was not long ago that one had to apply and even sign an NDA in order to beta test software – now most web 2.0 betas are public, and joe/jane enduser is not as aware as needed that betas are NOT final released products. it’s the risk you take by being an early adopter.

    very classy of goog/grandcentral to pay to reprint those business cards. much smarter than telling them to go #sand.

  11. seems like not a big deal, and a very legitimate reason…people are just looking for reasons to piss on elgoog when there are soooo many better reasons….and how come nobody’s complaining about electric cars anymore? weren’t they gonna run forever?

  12. I surmise from Mr. Paquet explanation that at least some of the phone numbers they issue “for life” do not “belong” to the consumers; heck does not even belong to GC; they belong to third party partners. Given that is the case, should they claim that they issue for life numbers? In the wake of Sunrocket shutdown, there were suggestions that GC would have been a safer choice. I hope people revisit those suggestions. The bottom line is any consumer advocate, like this blog, must be very protective of rights we have in PSTN world, even as we migrate to VoIP. VoIP subscribers must get clarification from their providers whether the PSTN number can be ported out. (If a provider allows you to have any number then it is a safe bet that it can not be ported out.) Let us not lose PSTN rights in the VoIP world, lest we give up one master for another.

  13. haven’t gotten a number resassignement email yet from grandcentral but that would definetly suck. I have referred 3-4 friends so far who have businesses to use Grandcentral specifically because Google was backing it