You should never listen to me, really. When Twitter could no longer send free SMS updates in the UK, I was one of many that predicted the decline of the service in this country. The reason was my personal experience: I felt I had found Twitter’s “killer” application—liveblogging and expanding the experience of things like music festivals—which would be of obvious benefit for people who weren’t generally into online social networks. With the possibility dashed, of hooking technophobes by showing them such real use cases, I was sure that Twitter UK would become a geek enclave.
It was therefore a bit of a surprise to me that Twitter usage here has increased ten times over the past year. The graph follows roughly two functional forms, both of them broadly exponential: an increase of a factor of six over the course of the first six months, then a sharp decline for a month when the UK SMS service was switched off, then another more gradual increase of a factor of some 2.5 over the next five.
Again, though, this does chime somewhat with personal experience. Shortly after SMS switchoff, the more dedicated tweeple—adopting twee Twitter-speak, or possibly twargon—ramped up their off-mobile twittering.
It’s especially ironic that the New York Times has since pointed out that SMS costs the carriers nothing, that Twitter now has to cope with the pragmatically, lazy-structured network that is the internet. Perhaps such a heterogeneous, non-ubiquitous carrier of choice will hamper them in the long run more than a free, piggybacked SMS service would have done. They’re lucky, really, that they’re now only looking at an exponential increase of perhaps sevenfold a year, rather than the original, SMS-enabled thirty-six.
But I’m not going to predict anything beyond a perhaps. After all, there’s always Bob Dylan’s message service.