back to article Google tosses free texting

Google is pulling access to the XMPP API that allows third-party applications to send SMS messages with the Mountain View chocolate factory footing the bill, much to the annoyance of app developers. Most notable amongst the companies taking advantage of Google's largess is Innerfence, whose "Infinite SMS" iPhone application …


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  1. Mick F
    Thumb Up


    Google have their own phones, why give the iBling users a free ride.

  2. Ru

    At last, a suitable use for 'Freetard'


  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Google, offer a service that was never going to make money, then pull it causing others grief?

    Shome mishtake shurely.

    I suspect It's only a matter of time before most, if not all of youtube goes the same way...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Anyone creating a commercial product that is completely dependant on a free service from a 3rd party is foolish.

    They could have given it away for free to get their name out there, but no...

    That is all.

  5. kissingthecarpet

    You could never do it from the UK, anyway

    I thought - or am I wrong?

  6. Tom


    They weren't that foolish. The app must have been pretty cheap to make, so they might have seen some profit for hardly any effort.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    And anyone foolish to pay for an app that provides a free service is also, well a fanboi

  8. Anonymous Coward

    One word... ok two

    <voice type="Nelson Muntz">HA HA</voice>

  9. John Styles

    OK, our species is clearly doomed

    Google give away something for free that costs them money.

    Someone else makes an application using the thing Google give away for free that costs them money.

    People buy the the application that uses the thing Google gives away for free that costs them money, then are surprised that the plug is pulled on in.

    I can no longer begin to comprehend the world in which I live.

    You will find me sitting on top of a mountain. A flat one.

  10. Russ

    SMS cost

    I was under the impression that as SMSs are transferred using a control channel that's always open when phones connect to a network, the real cost of sending a text is genuinely zero to the operators - the fact that a phone is connected to a network means its capable of sending and receiving texts for no additional cost above what has already been invested in making the network capable of sending and receiving calls. Sadly I don't see a situation by which operators will ever choose to start charging the marginal cost for an SMS.

  11. Colin Millar


    That's not how you determine a marginal cost on a network. An application which follows the application for which the network was originally provided cannot be said to be free simply because it requires no modifications to the network to be made. The original cost of providing the network may have been part of a business case based on the original application but the ongoing maintenance of the network now takes into acount the extra utility which is provided (and can be charged for) by the newer application. If it doesn't take that into account you would effectively be saying that the utility value of SMS was zero - which is plainly not the case given the huge demand for it.

    And all that is before you start talking about marginal bandwith useage and network congestion charging.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about email?

    I know Sprint, Nextel, and Verizon all have email address patterns to which messages can be sent, which then translate the message into a txt message on the phone end. Just use that.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Tom 14:01

    Yes, a quick bit of profit and now their name is in ruins...the fools.

  14. Big Bear

    RE: What about email?

    Those are all network operators in the States, where, I believe, it costs to receive SMS? So if someone sends you emails that are converted, do you have to pay to receive them as SMS? That’s a business model that actually works!! Even this service is offered gratis, the operator has you spanking money every month to profit from…

    Why the recipient doesn’t check their email is, however, beyond the ken of this respondent…

  15. Martin Silver badge


    The GSM network was hardly spec'ed on the business model of sending text messages - otherwise they would hardy have paid £Bn for 3G licences if all they want to send is 140bytes. SMS is a windfall for the phone companies - and yes they will happily charge what the market will bear.

    But since the marginal cost to them is approx bugger-all they might also decide to carry them fro free to/from iPhones in return for being the chosen host of the Jesus phone.

    As to basing a business on free 3rd party services. I rely on Google to spend $Bn on infrastructure to index my site and supply searches for free.

  16. vincent himpe

    that's the problem these daysd

    averybody wants free free free. And if it's taken away its whaaa whaaa whaaa.

    Ask them if they will work for free and they will claim you are nuts ...

    in real life nothing is free.

    It doesn't take a rocket surgeon (why does it always have to be a scientist ? ) to figure out that text messages cost money. So this money has to come from somewhere. If someone offers you an application .. eh make that 'sell an application' that lets you send messages fro free the warning bells should start ringing and you should have been headed for the hills ... but no.

  17. Steven Raith
    IT Angle


    From the front page of Labs:

    "Google labs showcases a few of our favorite ideas that aren't quite ready for prime time."

    If you built your app around an API from something described as 'not quite ready' - and then had the gall to charge users for it - and THEN have the stupidity to complain when it's pulled...

    From InnerFence:

    "Inner Fence is a bootstrapped two-person startup in the Seattle Area. Its principals are Derek Del Conte and Ryan D Johnson."

    That's two people I'll never allow to develop for any client I work with, then, seeing as they can't tell the difference between 'beta' and 'production'.


    Steven R

  18. raving angry loony

    google beta?

    Google says "making it clear that while the API was publicly announced it never emerged from the Google Labs, and therefore third parties shouldn't have bet their business model on it."

    Of course, NOTHING at Google is out of beta, so by that reasoning nobody should be betting their business model on anything Google offers. In other words: "We're Google. Fuck off."

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    if memory serves me right sms is an awful transport mechanism a bit like mailing bmps about.

    Really they should dump it and sell phones with email preconfigured.

  20. Greg

    @Colin Millar

    If I wasn't helpful, I'd just say : Ahahahahahah!!!!

    If I'm a little more helpful, I'll advise you to go to and type " define: marginal cost"

    I could also explain to you how you completely don't know what it means, but you'll realize that with a google query.

  21. Bob

    Another solution?

    You can already SMS for free by going to the website of T-Mobile, Verizon, etc. depending on the cellphone provider of the person you're trying to reach. Why not make an app that figures out the cellphone provider of a phone number (there are websites that can do this) and then sends the SMS message via the appropriate web site?

  22. Colin Millar


    Whether or not they decide to carry for free as a loss leader would be part of their current business model decisions. Whether that service was part of the original spec is irrelevant to anything but the original decision to make the network - it must have a bearing on the ongoing business case to maintain the network.

    Maintenance costs of any infrastructure network (not just comms) must take into account the utility of all the services which currently run on the network - not just those for which the network was originally designed - as they provide part of the return on the network costs. Whether that return is measured using COBA or straight market value it is a mistake to discount services which have a low network impact in making current decisions.

  23. Ru
    Thumb Down

    @Martin Re: [Google] supply searches for free

    You rely on google to spend $bn on infrastructure from which they expect to get a $$bn return due to advertising revenue. That is why they can afford to give it away; there's precious little opportunity to make any money from letting people send teeny messages with no useful scope for advertising at them. Behaviour tracking isn't enough to justify the expense. See also: twitter, failure to make big bucks.

    In the monumentally unlikely event of google withdrawing free search, there are and always will be free alternatives.

    So yeah; poor example.

  24. J

    @Big Bear

    "Those are all network operators in the States, where, I believe, it costs to receive SMS?"

    Depends on the subscription plan, maybe. I have the most basic Sprint plan possible and don't pay to receive text messages, only to send. Other plans/carriers might be different

  25. james
    Thumb Down

    Don't assume

    Just because Google couldn't do it doesn't mean someone else can not. It isn't as if Google is the only source of talent or business knowledge on the planet... I think you might be giving Google too much credit...

  26. Adam Harris

    Google Making Other Apps Profitable Day

    It seems today they're trying to make some money through everything else that isnt Adwords.

    Just had an email confirming 5th May as the 1st day they start charging for Google Checkout, pretty steet Paypal-esque fees too:

    Oh well, honeymoon had to end at some point.


  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Big Bear

    Yeah, they are operators in the US. It can cost to receive. Typically you would get a block for a certain amount, 250 send/receive per month for $5 / month. Not everyone can check via email.

    The usage scenario where I actually learned about this does make sense. Our server monitoring software monitors the servers. If an error is found, it sends alerts out via email that show up as SMS or txt messages on the phones, thus alerting the on-call sys admin, even when they are sleeping.

  28. ratfox

    Marginal costs

    Whatever the cost of an SMS is to the operator, it is not zero,

    since too many SMS can overload the network.

    Whoever invented the idea of SMSing all your friends on new years' eve should be shot...

    Anyway, the point is moot, since operators do not charge the marginal cost,

    but whatever people will accept to pay: In Canada, you pay $6 a month to

    have caller ID, i.e. knowing who's calling you.

  29. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    @Russ, and the cost of texts

    The description of the mechanics is right, the SMS messages go over the control channel. It's also true that I think the phone cos are charging FAR more than it costs to send and receive texts -- especially ala carte rates.

    BUT, the costs are not 0 or near-0.

    First, brief info on what goes over the control channel (besides texts..). From phone to cell site, the phone sends info to the site when it's first turned on (or first gets in range of the site), then every 5 to 15 minutes afterwards it sends the same info. This is just so the phone network knows your phone exists. If you make a phone call, your phone sends a request over the control channel. If your phone is ringing and it picks up it sends a request to indicate this as well. From site to your phone, the network sends your phone "you're getting a call, start ringing!" and the caller ID info.

    As for why costs are not 0:

    1) The control channels can and do overload. Traditionally, the same control channel info would be broadcast by every cell site city-wide. After SMS took off, they started having to split cities into zones, with additional equipment to handle the control of these groups of cell sites for each zone. In the densest areas, they'll have to even add additional control channels to some sites.

    2) They have to have equipment to handle and forward all these texts. I hang out a lot on, late last year alone, there were intermittent delays (of sometimes several hours) with Sprint; AT&T had localized cases of slow or even worse LOST texts. Nextel was basically considered a joke for texting pre-merger with Sprint, I don't know if it's better now. The texting servers or whatever apparently cost enough that they put off upgrading the capacity of them at least for a while.

    3) Inter-carrier texting. This all goes through some exchange, which costs. I don't know if they are charged per text, or if they are charged per T1 or whatever. A few months ago, several carriers did not have enough capacity to this exchange, resulting in texts to the same carrier being fast, but minutes to hours delays to other carriers.

    4) Spam filters. Some carriers in the US, based on the complaints I read online, clearly do not have a spam filter. I know for sure Verizon brags about theirs, and it seems to work very well. But due to the volume of spam it does filter it is likely rather expensive as well. Again, for a few days last year it backed up and they had to spend extra money on it.


    As for US cell phones...

    The norm here is to have a bucket of minutes.. either for an individual phone, or on a "family plan" where phones can be added onto it for $10 a line. Texting is also done with buckets of texts, either per line (from $5 for about 250 to about $20 for unlimited texts), or some $20 or so addon that gives unlimited texts for the whole family plan. Free long distance within the US, and free roaming within the US are included, although most companies have a "40% roaming" or "50% roaming" rule in the fine print, so they can drop customers who roam nearly 100% of the time... Verizon specifically does not have this roaming restriction though.

    So, SprintPCS does have free incoming texts on some plans. "Old" AT&T Wireless had free incoming texts (but Cingular bought them, then after the merger dragged down Cingular's name a bit, renamed the whole thing AT&T.. *that* AT&T doesn't do free incoming..) US Cellular has free incoming texts *and* free incoming calls. But the norm is for all incoming to come out of your buckets. The flip side, though, *calling* a cell is normal rate (so, from a landline, calling a cell with a local phone number is local, and otherwise the normal long distance rate.)

  30. Zero Sum

    Free SMS from Russian telecoms

    Most Russian operators offer (limited) free SMSs to their subscribers on their websites. It's very handy and very good PR. Is there anything like that in the UK or US or Australia? Unlikely. Idiots.

    Here's Beeline's site for example:

  31. Pete

    Goog cal

    Will this affect the calendar reminders that the Goog currently sends, incl. to UK mobe numbers

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