Rewire the Postal Service: Meatspace DNS

Again I’ll say it: the U.S. Postal Service is a strange and doomed beast, constantly hounded and bleeding from a thousand cuts but cursed to never die.  And maybe that’s why I love it.

A ways back we solicited opinions on how best to transform the struggling U.S. Postal Service, stirring up barely a leaf’s rustle of feedback.Said feedback suggested that we could best “help the postal mails by solicitously expediting transfer of good faith monies” to the Nigerian bank account specified.  Nearly a year later and I’m still waiting for my fortune in embezzled oil wealth.

But nothing’s changed.  The postal service is still hemorrhaging cash, still viewed as antiquated and a dead-tree dependent business that is haunted by technological changes, rather than an institution that stands to benefit from them.  Apropos of nothing but my own surging interest, I hereby declare June 3 through June 10th TITLE OF MAGAZINE’s POSTAL WEEK, dedicated to wild speculation on the reinvention of the US Postal Service.

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Mike Kuniavsky had a smart idea for a postal business model change over at his Orange Cone blog:

Here’s what I came up with in the bar: the US Postal Service (USPS) needs to become the equivalent of the Domain Name Service for geographic locations. DNS is the digital service that translates human-readable domain names such as orangecone.com into IP addresses, such as 168.75.111.15.

This, more or less, is exactly what the USPS already does, but it’s still tied to the sender writing the actual physical address on the letter. However, as any recipient of a slightly mis-addressed letter that still arrived knows, the service is actually pretty good at figuring out where the letter is going. The USPS is already resolving ambiguous address data into physical locations.
It’s been doing it for years…

Why not make name-to-location resolution the primary role of the postal service?
For example, rather than having your address be “Your Name, 1234 Oak Street, Town, State, Zip Code” you could pay to have it be “Your Name, Town, USA.” Microsoft could pay to have their address just be “Microsoft, USA.” It works for “Santa Claus,” why can’t the USPS charge MS to make it work for them?

On the back end, the postal service could provide a number of routing services using the infrastructure they already have. The “Microsoft” letter could go either to a regional office or to a central location, depending on what Microsoft wanted to pay for.

Be sure to click through and read the rest where he breaks down the numbers on potential profitability and other bits of the nitty gritty.

I think this is brilliant the way it builds on the core function of postal service–making everyone in the country locatable and able to be communicated with.

I propose that this could be taken a step further to create something like a physical version of call forwarding.  A Postal Meatspace DNS customer would input a list of common locations that they frequent–home, office, bar, camp–and be able to adjust their mail delivery to follow them via a simple web interface.  I’ll flesh this idea out a little later in the week.

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