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(Elzas, 2012)


Thanks to Minitel, a consumer in 1997 who dialed the code 3617 SIRENE would tap into a directory of all of the French businesses and establishments available at the time. We get an understanding of the extent of SIRENE’s offerings because the service is still available today through the Sirene directory website (“Sirene”).

Minitel was a French computer terminal that any French resident with a telephone subscription had access to (Mailland, 2017). Before the establishment of our modern Internet, French citizens were provided with entry to a world of tens of thousands of services ranging from porn-hubs to gaming channels. Specifically during the era of Minitel, the SIRENE service enabled consumers to have access to specifics about businesses ranging from nomenclature and codes to addresses and sectors with the simple dialing of a code. The service revolutionized the process for entrepreneurs to create start-ups and for consumers to find information about specific establishments.

SIRENE stands for Supplementary Information Request at the National Entries, as laid out by the European Commission (“Sirene Corporation”). The service was produced by the French Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) (“Bulletin officiel n°2002-14”). The Sirene directory provides a plethora of information on companies, including contact details, siren number, date of creation, workforce, APE code, and several characteristics of the establishments (“3617 SIREN,” 2007). The APE code is also referred to as the “NAF” code and basically serves to identify which division the company is in. This code also allows the INSEE to create statistics and compare the activity to similar sectors. Moreover, the Sirene directory on Minitel allowed for people to order addresses for companies on diskette, gain info on classifying businesses, and gain a sense of demographic data. Overall, the main purpose of the Sirene service is to provide useful statistics for generating businesses and creating nomenclature to differentiate between these establishments. SIRENE is also grouped as one of the law-oriented Minitel services, along with several others like 3617 JOEL, 3617 FIDU, 3617 EURIDILE, 3615 INSEE, and 3616 RESIST (“Law-Oriented Minitel Servers”). 

Companies in the directory are organized by SIREN number and SIRET number, which are issued by INSEE. These SIREN and SIRET numbers not only are given to identify commercial establishments but also are given to associations, unions, administrative businesses, etc. Thus, they are given to both private and public divisions. The SIREN number is assigned by INSEE to a company once it is initially created in France. It stands for Système d’identification du répertoire des entreprises, which means “Business Directory Information system.” It is a distinctive 9 digit identification number distinguished by the order it is registered into the directory. This specific 9 digit SIREN code usually stays the same throughout the entire lifespan of the business; however, there are a few exceptions to this case. Some of the exceptions include cessation of the activity and troubles with the law. Furthermore, the SIRET number, which is referred to as Système d’Identification du Répertoire des Établissements and explicitly means “Directory of Establishments Identification System” is the 9 digit SIREN number followed by a 5 digit “NIC.” The “NIC” is translated as the “Number of Classification” and identifies the head of the office and any additional secondary sectors within the company. To elaborate, some establishments only have one SIRET number; however, others have a multitude of these 5-digit identifying codes to account for the different branches of their companies (Esther, 2018).

Theoretically, if a person wants to create a business, they should utilize Minitel to type in 3617 SIRENE and to see if the name of the company is not already taken (Abrate, 7). Then, they must fill out and submit a registration form to INSEE. INSEE then assigns the company a SIREN number and any associated secondary SIRET numbers and an APE code, as mentioned above. (Esther, 2018).

Although Minitel was disbanded in 2012, some services have taken different forms with the use of the internet. The Sirene directory is now found with the ease of a google search. The Sirene directory is still owned, foreseen, and produced by INSEE. The website claims that of the 30 million associations created in the Sirene directory (“Sirene”), 12 million are still active today in France. In addition to 3617 SIRENE, 3617 FLYSMS (sending text messages), 3615 CMUT (business directory), and 3623 MEDIT (virtual transmission of treatment sheets) are other prominent professonal Minitel services that are still in use today on various technological platforms (Sedouramane, 2012).

The SIRENE directory and the 3617 SIRENE Minitel service has helped verify trader registrations and given nomenclature to all businesses, enterprises, and associated secondary establishments.


Abrate, Jayne. Using Minitel in the Commercial French Class: Creating a Business Draft, n.d. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED377726.pdf

“Bulletin officiel n°2002-14”. Accessed October 1, 2021. https://solidarites-sante.gouv.fr/fichiers/bo/2002/02-14/a0141329.htm.

Elzas, Sarah. “France Says Farewell to Minitel, Precursor of the Internet.” RFI. RFI, June 29, 2012. https://www.rfi.fr/en/economy/20120629-france-says-farewell-minitel-precursor-internet.

Esther. “The Siren and Siret Numbers.” The SIREN and SIRET Numbers. Nikolsen, July 13, 2018. https://nikolsen.com/en/article/siren-and-siret-numbers.

“Law-Oriented Minitel Servers.” Law-oriented Minitel servers. Accessed October 1, 2021. http://archiv.jura.uni-saarland.de/france/Law-France/mtl.htm.

Mailland, Julien. “Minitel, the Open Network before the Internet.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, June 16, 2017. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/06/minitel/530646/.June 16, 2017. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/06/minitel/530646/.

Sedouramane, Hugo. “A Multiservice Business.” Journaldunet.com. JDN, June 29, 2012. https://www.journaldunet.com/ebusiness/le-net/1004372-minitel-30-ans-de-business/1004374-un-business-prometteur.

“Sirene Cooperation.” Migration and Home Affairs. European Commission. Accessed October 1, 2021. https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/policies/schengen-borders-and-visa/schengen-information-system/sirene-cooperation_en.

“Sirene.” INSEE. Accessed October 1, 2021. https://www.sirene.fr/sirene/public/accueil?sirene_locale=en.

“3617 SIREN.” EVARISTE: , 2007. https://admi.net/evariste/minitel/3617_SIRENE.html.

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