Facebook is killing text messaging

Facebook is killing text messaging

Summary: Facebook is slowly but surely killing the text message. As a result, the social networking giant is eating into the traffic carriers receive from text messaging, and thus a huge chunk of their revenues.

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We've heard many times and from multiple sources that text messaging is declining. There are multiple reasons for this (BlackBerry Messenger, Apple's iMessage, and even WhatsApp), but the biggest one is Facebook (Messenger).

In the last year alone, SMS usage has not only continued to slow, but it has seen a significant drop. So, what happened last year that could have caused this? In August 2011, Facebook Messenger was released for Android, iPhone. In October 2011, it got a significant upgrade, and the BlackBerry version arrived on the scene.

I've mentioned many times that Facebook Messenger has a huge chance of becoming the most popular way to communicate in text form, especially given that in March 2012 it was also released for Windows. Facebook has confirmed a Mac version is coming, and screenshots of an iPad version leaked earlier this month.

Carriers must be very worried about these developments. Messaging services, especially Facebook's, are eating into their text messaging traffic, and thus a huge chunk of their revenue, according to telecommunications consulting firm Strand Consult:

In other words the operators have yet to find a new cash cow that comes anywhere close to their SMS cash cow and now many operators are seeing an increasing number of customers moving their SMS traffic over to Facebook, resulting in their SMS cash cow getting thinner and thinner. In countries like Denmark and Norway this trend is very visible, as an increasing number of customers are reducing their daily SMS traffic because they are moving their communication over to Facebook chat or Instant Messenger. … The biggest difference between Facebook and Google is that Facebook is a communication tool that people use to keep in touch with their family and friends every day. In many ways one can compare Facebook's development in the mobile industry to how the Internet affected the media industry. Market players like Google, Skype, Twitter and MSN are only marginally important to the mobile industry compared to Facebook.

Once you have data, you can use hundreds of free messaging tools, rendering SMS next to useless, especially if you have to pay for it separately. In fact, I think Facebook would completely destroy text messaging if carriers in many countries didn't bundle text messaging into all their plans. I would love to remove texting functionality from my phone and pay less.

Facebook Messenger is the best alternative for three massive reasons: most of your friends already have it (or they at least have Facebook – remember the service has over 901 million monthly active users), it's cross-platform (again, not just mobile), and it is regularly getting significant upgrades (video calling is coming this summer).

Texting isn't going away anytime soon, especially given that carriers make so much revenue from it. Nevertheless, texting is so limited that alternatives have been quickly embraced. As a BlackBerry user and former RIM employee, I love BlackBerry Messenger and all the features it offers. When Facebook Messenger 1.7 came out, however, I called it a BBM killer.

I still use text messages to communicate with friends directly. I also send Facebook messages to individuals when I don't have their number for whatever reason (they lost it, they changed it, and so on).

Even more frequently, I find myself using Facebook Groups, Facebook Events, and a single Facebook or BBM message for communicating with multiple friends. It's just easier than sending a text message to everyone. I believe I would send even more Facebook messages over texts if Facebook was better integrated with my BlackBerry. No wonder the Facebook phone rumor just won't die.

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Topics: Hardware, Collaboration, Mobility, Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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Talkback

11 comments
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  • I'm still not joining facebook.

    .
    Daughain
    • There's a lot of ways to do it.

      Okay, although I think the point still remains - there's a lot of ways to do it. Trillian will connect to a bunch of IM services. Skype can send text messages. Google+, if you prefer to use another social network. Steam or Xblaze (Xfire client) if you're a gamer.

      There's so many alternatives that allow you to text others for free; I think the argument holds even without Facebook.
      CobraA1
    • me neither.

      Let's compete to be the last two people on this earth to join.
      tora201
      • I'll take some of that action.

        Add me to the contest.
        Hallowed are the Ori
  • SMS is a scam

    A single text message cost less than 0.1% of the cost of a 1 minute long distance call. But the carriers charge up to 5 times the cost of that one minute call for a 1 letter message.

    I honestly don't feel bad that something else is "killing" the profits from the legalized scam that is SMS.
    wackoae
    • use unlimited messaging options

      It looks much better, if you really use them (that is, send a lot of messages)
      polarcat
      • So pay extra for a service I don't need?

        I don't like SMS. I can complete a full conversation in that 1 minute call without wasting time typing it.

        Why the hell should I pay extra for a service that I find ANNOYING.
        wackoae
  • facebook?

    Google Voice and Skype maybe. :-)
    slickjim
  • SMS should be free, to be honest.

    There's never really been a good case for SMS costing money. It barely takes any bandwidth to send, and with the advent of data plans is pretty redundant.

    Indeed, I have Trillian, Skype, Facebook, Google+, and even a couple oddballs like Steam and Xblaze (Xfire for iPhone), all capable of some form of instant messaging. At this point, there's really no reason to actually pay money to send messages to anybody I know.

    At the very least, just make unlimited SMS a standard part of any data plan.
    CobraA1
  • SMS is an extremely overpriced service in many areas

    In Australia, it usually a attracts ~25c charge, which is like $1.5M per GB for its 160B payload. No wonder the carriers are 'not happy, Jan' about losing a share of that cash cow.

    Someone from India recently told me they pay well less than 1/100th of a cent per SMS.
    Patanjali
  • Google Mail

    Google mail allows you to send text messages (sms) to any phone in the world absolutely free. I'm in the U.S. and send sms messages all the time to the Philippines, Spain and the U.S. Just by logging into Google Mail.
    jmc53fox