Twitter cans SMS service

August 15, 2008 // 12:55 p.m.

Tags: #mobile #sms #text-message #twitter #txt #uk

If you use Twitter from a mobile 'phone here in the UK, you may have wondered why it's all gone a bit quiet – apparently, the bills were getting too high.

According to the Twitter blog, the company has retired the ability to send out Twitter updates – short messages detailing what a given user is doing at the time – via SMS to UK residents. While the text message updates were perfectly feasible in the US – where the recipient bears the cost – the system proved to be too expensive in the UK, where the sender pays for the message to go out.

The guys at Twitter knew that the day would come when sending out thousands of SMS messages without charging users anything would prove to be unsustainable in the long run, describing the process as having “set the clock ticking” when they launched the SMS updates in the UK. The company had hoped to “establish relationships with mobile operators around the world such that our SMS services could become sustainable from a cost perspective”, but sadly those relationships proved elusive outside the US, Canada, and India.

While the SMS updates sent by Twitter are now disabled – typically, the same day that I actually got around to configuring my Twitter account to send the blessed things – the reverse is not true, with UK users still able to send SMS updates to +447624801423 and update their status on-the-go. However, in light of the reduced functionality – and the fact that as the number belongs to Manx Telecom and is often charged as 'International', meaning messages sent to it are billed at a higher rate and not included in free text bundles – the company is suggesting alternatives: Cellity for Java-enabled handsets, TwitterBerry for BlackBerry users, and Twitterific if you've got an iPhone. Users without any of the above will have to point their WAP browser to http://m.twitter.com/, and failing that it'll be a hunt for Internet Cafés on-route.

Twitter hasn't given up on international SMS support yet, however: the company says it will “continue to negotiate with mobile operators in Europe, Asia, China, Australia, The Americas, and other regions to forge relationships that will benefit all our users” and describes the final goal to be the provision of “full, two-way service with Twitter via SMS to every national in a way that is sustainable from a cost perspective.

Any Twitter users here saddened at the fact that they'll no longer seem the most popular kid on the block with constant SMS notifications, or is text messaging old hat anyway? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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