When you work in the mobile telecoms business, you get pretty used to the occasional news story announcing the decline of SMS as a telecoms tool, especially in the teens/twenties demographic.
We’ve been reading predictions like this for half a dozen years now, but text messaging just keeps growing in popularity – in our view because it’s simple, easy, elegant and cheap.
Now SMS has had yet another boost in the form of Facebook announcing its new Facebook Messages service. The new service will collate updates and messages from email, web, mobile app and SMS sources into a streamlined, simplified messaging and information system designed for younger demographics who find email too formal or unwieldy. And if Facebook’s past experience is anything to go by, technology aimed at the kids will soon be taken up by their parents (and grandparents!) too.
Facebook’s stated aim is to make online communication “more like a conversation” – something that flows in a pretty natural way between friends and groups of friends. SMS – which is about as neat, spontaneous and fast as telecommunications can get – is a natural fit for this kind of philosophy.
The new Messages service will be built around a so-called “social inbox” that collates communications and stores them in threads in a way that’s a little reminiscent of Google Wave. It’s pretty certain, however, that because of its enormous userbase (500m+), Facebook’s attempt at this kind of unifying telecoms technology is going to be much bigger than Wave.
Facebook sees the new technology as a way of allowing users greater control over their personal communications. In his blog post announcing the rollout of Messages, Facebook software engineer Joel Seligstein said, “this kind of message control is pretty unprecedented and people have been wanting to do this with email (and phone calls) for a long time. Messages reverses the approach to preventing unwanted contact. Instead of having to worry about your email address getting out, you’re now in control of who can actually reach you.”
How does TextMagic fit into this? Well, whichever way you look at it, network providers are going to charge for SMS messages. If the Facebook Messages model goes ahead as planned (and it’s still being rolled out, so nobody’s entirely sure), TextMagic will allow users to interact with Facebook Messages quicky and easily – from their desktop, mobile device or email application – at a lower cost than they would have to pay if sending SMS via their regular mobile provider.
We’re very excited about Facebook Messages, and not just because it’s an exciting new way of communicating in itself. It proves, once again, that SMS is an effective, trusted and reliable technology that’s likely to be around for a long time to come.