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Twitter’s Smart Bet on Mobile Phone Numbers as Identity

Recently, Twitter announced a new service called Digits, which aims to replace email address and password login on mobile applications. Email addresses and associated password or single sign-on, usually with Facebook, are the most popular ways to log in to websites. While single sign-on works reasonably well in mobile apps, it is cumbersome to type in an email address and password on a small screen. Enter Digits.

Digits will enable the user to have their phone number verified by SMS and then as long as the same SIM card is in use, the user can continue to use the mobile app without having to log in. No need to remember which email address you used to sign up or a password. On Android phones, the SMS verification is seamless, the application will automatically detect the SMS message sent from Digits and verify the user and authorize them to use the app. On iPhones, the user has to take the additional step of entering the code sent to them through SMS. But once the verification step is done, the user remains logged in as long as they have the same SIM card. To get developers on board, Twitter is paying the SMS verification costs.

Verification by SMS and log in by mobile phone number is particularly valuable in many parts of the world where smartphones exceeds PC penetration. Many users in these markets don’t have an email address. In developed markets, younger users tend to use email less and are more comfortable with mobile apps and processes.

At Whitepages, we believe mobile phone numbers is a strong proxy for the identity of the user. Our popular Caller ID app identifies incoming calls and texts so you always know who’s calling and can decide whether you want to pick up or not. Mobile phone numbers with identity information (i.e. names) tend to get answered much more often than unidentified numbers. Digits uses the mobile phone number for a very similar purpose, to identify the user to the application. In both cases, mobile phone numbers are being used as a proxy for identity.

Suja Vaidyanathan is the Sr. Product Manager, Local Business Information at Whitepages. This post was originally published on our Whitepages Blog.  

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