Some SMS Perspective

Friday, 15 August 2008

Some SMS Perspective

On Wednesday, we announced that Twitter has suspended outgoing SMS to our UK number. The blue in the chart above illustrates the percent of outgoing SMS we stopped sending. 2% of our user base consumed 4% of our outbound SMS over the UK number at a price which disproportionately impacted overall operational cost. Nevertheless, this 2% is important to us and the UK number remains active for incoming SMS. We send out a large amount of SMS traffic—most of it going to The United States, Canada, and India where we have established sustainable billing rates with mobile operators and we don’t pass any expense on to users.

Why Not Charge Users?

We considered passing the cost (as much as 73 euros per month for 35 tweets a day in some markets) of outgoing SMS on to users through a billing mechanism. However, international billing is a significant project and not something we are comfortable focusing on before we have a dependable offering. It’s not right to charge for spotty service—and we know there are bugs. People have had trouble setting up SMS, sometimes messages don’t make it to their destination, and sometimes there are duplicate messages.

The Show Must Go On

We love SMS. The lowest common denominator aspect of this service is a defining part of Twitter. We want to provide ubiquitous access in a way that is sustainable for both us and our users. We’ve done it for 96% of our current SMS traffic and we think we can do it for the rest. But it will take time and we will need help. In the meantime, updates to the UK number still work, more numbers are on the way (hopefully we can get Australia a local number before I am fed to a crocodile), and there are several alternatives for receiving updates.