Bring on the PNS registry

While I’m once again going through the hassles of moving, this seems like a good time to link back to my post from the last time I moved about why we should make mail more like email. Switching postal addresses is a pain, but:

Contrast this with moving a website or email address to a new server. When I switch servers, I don’t have to notify everyone who emails me, reads my site, or links to my content that I’m moving. They use the address they’ve always used and the Domain Name System (DNS) automatically associates the domain name that people remember with the numerical IP address that computers use to communicate. I just have to tell one entity about the move (the DNS registry) and it takes care of the problem for everyone else.

It seems like computing technology is cheap enough now that our postal system should work the same way. Why should we have to remember cumbersome physical addresses and update all our contacts when we move? It would be a lot easier to simply use the equivalent of a domain name address and associate it in a database with a physical mailing location. Call it a Postal Name System (PNS). Everyone could have their own, easily memorized address to use for life. When people move, they just notify the PNS of the change and their postal name keeps functioning seamlessly, associating their postal address with their new physical location.

In other words, there’s no longer any reason why the physical locations where we live and work should have anything to do with the postal addresses people use to send us stuff.

Read the whole thing here. I’m always hesitant to think I know how a business should be run better than do the people with money on the line, but since the US Postal Service is a giant, government-protected monopoly I’m willing to make an exception this time. This seems like a workable idea.

Comments

  1. Mike says:

    Choose a different name. With PNS, people will think they’re only getting mail for about 4-5 days a month. (Please tell me I’m not the only one to whom this joke occurred.)

    Seriously, I have to wonder why this sort of thing hasn’t been implemented before. My guess is that they’re worried about the overhead of the extra step (address translation). But as you say, existing technology should render this step relatively instantaneous. Who knows?

  2. Ben says:

    It would make it harder for me to find people’s actual location by entering their mailing address in my GPS. In other words, I don’t think we could entirely get away from using the physical address…..so, under your proposal we’d have to remember our PNS address and our physical address.

    I guess that would be no different from people who have a post office box.

    Still, there has to be a better system of forwarding mail, and maybe yours would fit. When Christy and I first got married and moved her stuff out of her apartment, we lived in my parents’ place for a month before our apartment was ready. I had the brilliant idea of entering 2 forwarding addresses for her: 1 at my parents’ place, scheduled to end in a month…the other at our new address. The USPS did NOT like that! Heaven forbid there’s 2 forwarding addresses that don’t overlap chronologically. In the end, nothing was forwarded. Who knows what mail we’ve lost?

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