Ina Fried

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WhitePages Scoops Up Mr. Number, an Android App for Blocking Unwanted Calls

Seattle-based WhitePages has acquired Mr. Number — a startup whose Android software aims to make it easier for people to see who is calling them, and to block unwanted calls.

Mr. Number has been fighting an uphill battle since last year, when Google made it turn off a crowdsourced Caller ID database it was building from its user’s contact lists. In response, the company turned off the calling and texting features of its app, and focused on reverse lookup and other features.

WhitePages, which already has a Caller ID mobile product of its own, didn’t say how much it is paying for Mr. Number.

“Truly effective call management must provide consumers not only an understanding of who’s on the other end of the line, but the ability to block spammers and unwanted callers and texters,” WhitePages CEO Alex Algard said in a statement. “Our users now have access to the best of both worlds.”

WhitePages is buying the Mr. Number app, but its CEO and six-person team are staying independent to work on their next project.

“After Google changed their terms of service last year, we started work on an entirely new social discovery app called Skydeck,” Mr. Number CEO Jason Devitt said in an e-mail interview. “We’ve never formally announced Skydeck, but we’ve been testing it for a couple of months and we’re very pleased with the results. We sold the Mr. Number assets to WhitePages to finance the expansion of Skydeck.”

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work