Twitter by SMS is no more (in the UK)

Man in suit smashing sandcastle on beach

Have you ever used Twitter by SMS? You can tell the service to SMS you whenever there’s a new Tweet you might interested in. At least you could until today. Twitter has decided to close down SMS sending from the UK, citing cost as the main issue. They report that as they were unable to get the deals they wanted with mobile operators, it would cost them around $1000 per user per year to maintain the service. In a bid to cut costs, they have eliminated the service in all but three countries, India, Canada and the United States. They try to temper their press release with some good news, which consists of a promise to find more operators in more countries.

The UK SMSs were sent by a Manx operator, so that’s probably a pretty big loss of revenue for them. Still, if Twitter’s idea of “working out something” with the mobile operators was too aggressive for Manx Telecom’s business model, then it might have not been viable for them to handle the business. Considering Twitter haven’t managed to get any traction with *any* of the UK providers, I’m sure they must have been quite aggressive in their proposition. One option could have been for them to tie the number to a premium mobile number and charge the recipient a couple of pence for receiving SMSs. This would then have left the choice up to the Tweeter rather than having the service snatched away like this. It could even have generated some revenue for them. Instead they seem to be taking steps to kill a captive UK market.

To tell you the truth, I’ve never used the SMS flavour of Twitter. Some claim that this was the reason behind Twitter’s penetration, but I just don’t buy it. Can you imagine how annoying it would be to receive SMSs every few seconds, just because someone Tweets. It would drive me bonkers. There are loads of Twitter clients around, which really just need a data connection and seeing the size of a Twitter data packet, it’s definitely more elegant a solution than SMS. However, if your phone doesn’t have a browser or email support, you’re stuck. Any SMS users out there? How did you find the service? Will you be able to live without it? Will you be switching to Jaiku?

Global Internet


  1. I am by no means a power user (had SMS notifications active for maybe 3 people I follow) but I did use the UK SMS gateway to interact with a number of other tools (like GCal and Toodledoo) and that’s what’s really going to hurt.

    The thing that irks me most about this move on Twitter’s part is not the WHY (I get that, totally) but the HOW. I realize it sounds crass to complain about a free service (though I and countless others happily paid international SMS rates to use it via the UK) but I never expected it to stay that way and was ready to pay my way as soon as Twitter gave me that option. Instead, they shut it down without warning and only some vague promises about local SMS numbers coming “soon” for “some” countries.

    If Sweden’s on that list, I may stick around. Until then I’ll likely restrict my interaction with Twitter to the web, which is certainly cheaper (for me, anyway) but infinitely less useful. I have a Jaiku account, but it doesn’t interact with the other services I use the way Twitter does, so it’s not really much of a substitute.

  2. @Shazzer: Agreed. Just pulling the service with no warning and no options for clients was a pretty immature thing to do.

    It’s that sort of arrogance that makes people want to switch to an alternative.

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