Geek

Why Can’t I Subscribe to an Address Card?

The other day, I was talking to an old friend and doing that annoying ritual where I told her all of the phone numbers and email addresses I had for her, and she told me which ones were out of date and which ones I was missing. And I wondered why there’s not a better way of doing this. Especially when it’s so simple.

For those who don’t know: when you make an appointment to take your car to the garage and the web site allows you to add it to your calendar, or when your doctor emails you a reminder for your upcoming exam that you can click and add to your calendar, you’re downloading an iCalendar file. This is a file format for describing calendar events. All major calendar tools support it. It’s a well-known, widely-supported standard file type.

You can also subscribe to a calendar: your school or community center can publish a calendar of events simply by publishing an iCalendar file on their web site. Then your desktop calendar program can check the calendar’s URL once an hour or whatever, and show you the events.

Now, there’s another file type for contacts, called vCard or VCF. Where iCalendar is for appointments, vCard is for contacts: you can store a person’s name, addresses, job title, phone numbers, web site, and so on and so forth. Tools like Google Contacts allow you to export some or all of your contacts in vCard format because it’s so widely-supported.

Which brings up the obvious question I asked above: why can’t I subscribe to an address card the same way I subscribe to a calendar? My friend could simply have put her iCalendar file on a web site somewhere, and my address book utility could check the URL once a day or so to see whether she changed her phone number or postal address, or added a Discord account or something.

So… why?

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