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text messaging mailing lists   ...   elsewhere on the web , software
thu 2004-aug-12 18:16:42 pdt   ...   permalink

Interesting article in Wired about TxtMob, a clever tool for setting up mobile phone text message mailing lists. The guy who created it initially intended it to be used by political protesters to coordinate with each other in real time. And so apparently it was used by protesters at the Democratic convention. He's now working on improving the service for use at the Republican convention, where of course more protesters are expected. (The article does not make clear what the TxtMob guy's own politics are...)

But the simple idea of SMS mailing lists makes so much sense, I'm surprised no one's already done this. Then again, maybe they have. In which case, why isn't it a big thing?

The answer, of course, is "Because texting itself is not a big thing in the US." (Maybe SMS mailing lists are already big in Europe and/or Asia...?) And as far as I can tell, the biggest reason SMS has not caught on in the US the way it has in Europe is quite simply that not everyone can receive text messages on their cell phone. If the wireless providers in the US would make receiving text messages free and automatically on for everyone, I believe a lot more people would use it. Of course, there's probably a quite sizeable chunk of the handsets in the states that just don't support SMS... But the old problems with cross-provider texting have been solved. If I knew that everyone with a cell phone could automatically receive texts, I would totally send them more. As it is, I periodically try sending one to someone, always starting with "Can you receive text messages?" at the start of my message... Only a handful have responded. Which reminds me, another thing that SMS needs is a "bounce message" mechanism. If someone's phone or service doesn't accept my text message, it just disappears into the void. Useless!

Anyway, yeah, SMS mailing lists. All sorts of applications present themselves... Most obvious is just small groups of friends, meeting to hang out and stuff. But also they'd be great for puzzle hunt sorts of things (for game control to contact all the players, for example). In fact, whole new games could be built around such things... Hm...

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