Like most people my age, I guard my cell phone number closely--so closely that I cut myself off from people with whom I might otherwise want to talk. Some new services, like GrandCentral, give me control that the phone carriers don't by putting a second phone number between callers and me. GrandCentral will let me screen calls and determine who can reach me and when. That's great. But as soon as I call somebody from my cell phone, Caller ID gives me away--and my privacy and control evaporates.
Jangl is a very weird and potentially very useful service that assigns unique phone numbers to relationships. To get the Jangl number to reach me, for example, you would first go to Jangl.com and enter my Jangl ID, which I could have given you at a bar or on a Web site, etc. Then the site would give you a phone number. (In the future, Jangl will also deliver numbers via SMS). When you call that number the first time, you must leave a greeting for me, and if I then accept the call, we're connected. The same number you called is the one I use to call you, too. It's the phone number of our relationship.
The nice thing about this service is that neither you nor I can see each other's actual cell phone numbers. Also, either of us can terminate the relationship and expire the number. Since our actual phone numbers are never exposed to each other, that's it. Game over. Head back to the bar. This is even better than The Rejection Hotline.
The service does change the social dynamic a bit, though: Instead of giving people your number, you give them your Jangl ID. This makes sense on a public Web site, but if you meet somebody, give them an ID code, and say, "Look me up on Jangl, baby," they are either going to be confused, or else get the message: I'm keeping you at a distance.
We've blogged this before, but the service is nearing the open beta stage(the launch party is tonight), and because it's so unusual, I wanted to remind people of it.