Twitter Turns Off SMS Updates

    August 14, 2008

I wasn’t going to give Twitter’s "we’re stopping SMS text messages in most countries" announcement much real estate today, then a single comment gave me pause for thought.

First, the background:

Beginning today, Twitter is no longer delivering outbound SMS over our UK number. If you have been receiving SMS updates from Twitter via +44 762 480 1423, you’ll notice that they’ve stopped and you may want to explore some of the alternatives we’re suggesting…

…Even with a limit of 250 messages received per week, it could cost Twitter about $1,000 per user, per year to send SMS outside of Canada, India, or the US. It makes more sense for us to establish fair billing arrangements with mobile operators than it does to pass these high fees on to our users.

I’m neither in the UK, nor much of an SMS user, so this doesn’t impact my Twitter usage at all. Still, for those text-messaging pros in the UK, this is a big blow. In fact, one went as far as offering the following:

I’m fairly sure I’m not alone, but I’d be prepared to pay to receive SMSes in the UK…

Which had me asking: why didn’t Twitter ask its users if they wanted to pay for their SMS updates, before turning them off? Now, it could be that this commenter is a lone voice; but there’s a lesson to be learned here–one that companies always seem to forget–ask your customers what they would prefer? Twitter is already using Get Satisfaction to collect customer questions and feedback, perhaps they should have (did they?) asked the community first, before dropping the bombshell.