The future for Twitter ain’t looking so bright

Twitter has just axed the ability to receive updates by text message (for people outside the US, Canada and India). This radically restricts its appeal and usefulness as this means both you can’t use it as a free news-by-text service anymore but also it reduces the instant interactivity which¬†appealed to many.

More details in my post for PoliGeeks¬†(reproduced below) and on Alex Foster’s blog. As you’ll see from those posts, there are workarounds to continue to get updates via your phone, but they aren’t nearly as convenient or easy to use as the previous texting service.

Twitter axes text message updates in the UK – and what you can do about it

The following email going out to Twitter users in the UK is fairly self-explanatory. It would be churlish to get too annoyed at a free service being cut back, and credit to Twitter for calling bad news bad news rather than the usual PR guff about new opportunities and directions.

However, it is still bad news for many Twitter users, and I suspect quite a few will be mightily annoyed not to have had some advanced warning to give them a chance to let their followers know via SMS about any changes they might therefore be making (e.g. by using conventional blogging more).

Here’s the full official email:

I’m sending you this note because you registered a mobile device to work with Twitter over our UK number. I wanted to let you know that we are making some changes to the way SMS works on Twitter. There is some good news and some bad news.

I’ll start with the bad news. Beginning today, Twitter is no longer delivering outbound SMS over our UK number. If you enjoy receiving updates from Twitter via +44 762 480 1423, we are recommending that you explore some suggested alternatives.

Note: You will still be able to UPDATE over our UK number.

Before I go into more detail, here’s a bit of good news: Twitter will be introducing several new, local SMS numbers in countries throughout Europe in the coming weeks and months. These new numbers will make Twittering more accessible for you if you’ve been using SMS to send long-distance updates from outside the UK.

Why are we making these changes?
Mobile operators in most of the world charge users to send updates. When you send one message to Twitter and we send it to ten followers, you aren’t charged ten times–that’s because we’ve been footing the bill. When we launched our free SMS service to the world, we set the clock ticking. As the service grew in popularity, so too would the price.

Our challenge during this window of time was to establish relationships with mobile operators around the world such that our SMS services could become sustainable from a cost perspective. We achieved this goal in Canada, India, and the United States. We can provide full incoming and outgoing SMS service without passing along operator fees in these countries.

We took a risk hoping to bring more nations onboard and more mobile operators around to our way of thinking but we’ve arrived at a point where the responsible thing to do is slow our costs and take a different approach. Since you probably don’t live in Canada, India, or the US, we recommend receiving your Twitter updates via one of the following methods.

m.twitter.com works on browser-enabled phones
m.slandr.net works on browser-enabled phones
TwitterMail.com works on email-enabled phones
Cellity [http://bit.ly/12bw4R] works on java-enabled phones
TwitterBerry [http://bit.ly/MFAfJ] works on BlackBerry phones
Twitterific [http://bit.ly/1WxjwQ] works on iPhones
Twitter SMS by The Numbers

It pains us to take this measure. However, we need to avoid placing undue burden on our company and our service. Even with a limit of 250 messages received per week, it could cost Twitter about $1,000 per user, per year to send SMS outside of Canada, India, or the US. It makes more sense for us to establish fair billing arrangements with mobile operators than it does to pass these high fees on to our users.

Twitter will continue to negotiate with mobile operators in Europe, Asia, China, and The Americas to forge relationships that benefit all our users. Our goal is to provide full, two-way service with Twitter via SMS to every nation in a way that is sustainable from a cost perspective. Talks with mobile companies around the world continue. In the meantime, more local numbers for updating via SMS are on the way. We’ll keep you posted.

Thank you for your attention,
Biz Stone, Co-founderTwitter, Inc. http://twitter.com/biz

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