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Technical details

Messages are sent to a Short Message Service Centre (SMSC) which provides a store-and-forward mechanism. It attempts to send messages to their recipients. If a recipient is not reachable, the SMSC queues the message for later retry. Some SMSCs also provide a "forward and forget" option where transmission is tried only once. Message delivery is best effort, so there are no guarantees that a message will actually be delivered to its recipient and delay or complete loss of a message is not uncommon, particularly when sending between networks. Users may choose to request delivery reports, which can provide positive confirmation that the message has reached the intended recipient, but notifications for failed deliveries are unreliable at best.

Transmission of the short messages between SMSC and phone can be done through different protocols such as SS7 within the standard GSM MAP framework or TCP/IP within the same standard. Limitations of the messages used within these protocols result in the maximum single text message size of either 160 7-bit characters, 140 8-bit characters, or 70 16-bit characters. Characters in languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Japanese or Slavic languages (e.g., Russian) must be encoded using the 16-bit UCS-2 character encoding (see Unicode).

Larger content (known as long SMS or concatenated SMS) can be sent segmented over multiple messages, in which case each message will start with a user data header (UDH) containing segmentation information. Since the segmentation information is carried within the text message, the number of characters per segment is lower: 153 for 7-bit encoding, 134 for 8-bit encoding and 67 for 16-bit encoding. The receiving phone is responsible for reassembling the message and presenting it to the user as one long message. While the standard theoretically permits up to 255 segments, 6 to 8 segment messages are the practical maximum, and long messages are often billed as equivalent to multiple SMS messages.

Some service providers offer the ability to send messages to land line telephones regardless of their capability of receiving text messages by automatically phoning the recipient and reading the message aloud using a speech synthesizer along with the number of the sender.

Premium content

SMS is widely used for delivering digital content such as news alerts, financial information, logos and ringtones. Such messages are also known as premium-rated short messages (PSMS). The subscribers are charged extra for receiving this premium content, and the amount is typically divided between the mobile network operator and the value added service provider (VASP) either through revenue share or a fixed transport fee. Services like 82ASK and Any Question Answered have used the PSMS model to enable rapid response to mobile consumers' questions, using on-call teams of experts and researchers.

Premium short messages are increasingly being used for "real-world" services. For example, some vending machines now allow payment by sending a premium-rated short message, so that the cost of the item bought is added to the user's phone bill or subtracted from the user's prepaid credits. Recently, premium messaging companies have come under fire from consumer groups due to a large number of consumers racking up huge phone bills. Some mobile networks, now require users to call their provider to enable premium messages from reaching their handset.

A new type of 'free premium' or 'hybrid premium' content has emerged with the launch of text-service websites. These sites allow registered users to receive free text messages when items they are interested go on sale, or when new items are introduced.

An alternative to inbound SMS is based on Long numbers (international number format, e.g., +44 7624 805000), which can be used in place of short codes / premium-rated short messages for SMS reception in several applications, such as TV voting, product promotions and campaigns. Long numbers are internationally available, as well as enabling businesses to have their own number, rather than short codes which are usually shared across a lot of brands. Additionally, Long numbers are non-premium inbound numbers.


Short message services are developing very rapidly throughout the world. In 2000, just 17 billion SMS messages were sent; in 2001, the number was up to 250 billion, and 500 billion SMS messages in 2004. At an average cost of USD 0.10 per message, this generates revenues in excess of $50 billion for mobile telephone operators and represents close to 100 text messages for every person in the world.

SMS is particularly popular in Europe, Asia (excluding Japan; see below), Australia and New Zealand. Popularity has grown to a sufficient extent that the term texting (used as a verb meaning the act of mobile phone users sending short messages back and forth) has entered the common lexicon.

In China, SMS is very popular, and has brought service providers significant profit (18 billion short messages were sent in 2001). It is a very influential and powerful tool in the Philippines, where the average user sends 10-12 text messages a day . The Philippines alone sends on the average 400 million text messages a day or approximately 142 billion text messages sent a year, more than the annual average SMS volume of the countries in Europe, and even China and India. SMS is hugely popular in India, where youngsters often exchange lots of text messages, and companies provide alerts, infotainment, news, cricket scores update, railway/airline booking, mobile billing, and banking services on SMS.

In 2001, text messaging played an important role in deposing former Philippine president Joseph Estrada.

Short messages are particularly popular amongst young urbanites. In many markets, the service is comparatively cheap. For example, in Australia a message typically costs between AUD 0.20 and AUD 0.25 to send (some pre-paid services charge AUD 0.01 between their own phones), compared with a voice call, which costs somewhere between AUD 0.40 and AUD 2.00 per minute (commonly charged in half-minute blocks). Despite the low cost to the consumer, the service is enormously profitable to the service providers. At a typical length of only 190 bytes (incl. protocol overhead), more than 350 of these messages per minute can be transmitted at the same data rate as a usual voice call (9 kbit/s).

Mobile Service Providers in New Zealand, such as Vodafone and Boost Mobile, provide up to 2000 SMS messages for NZ$10 per month. Users on these plans send on average 1500 SMS messages every month.

Text messaging has become so popular that advertising agencies and advertisers are now jumping into the text message business. Services that provide bulk text message sending are also becoming a popular way for clubs, associations, and advertisers to quickly reach a group of opt-in subscribers. This advertising has proven to be extremely effective, but some insiders worry that advertisers may abuse the power of mobile marketing and it will someday be considered spam.


Europe follows next behind Asia in terms of the popularity of the use of SMS. In 2003, an average of 16 billion messages were sent each month. Users in Spain sent a little more than fifty messages per month on average in 2003. In Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom the figure was around 35–40 SMS messages per month. In each of these countries the cost of sending an SMS message varies from as little as £0.03–£0.18 depending on the payment plan. Curiously France has not taken to SMS in the same way, sending just under 20 messages on average per user per month. France has the same GSM technology as other European countries so the uptake is not hampered by technical restrictions.

In the Republic of Ireland, a total of 1.5 billion messages are sent every quarter, on average 114 messages per person per month. Whilst in the United Kingdom over 1 billion text messages are sent every week.

The Eurovision Song Contest organized the first pan-European SMS-voting in 2002, as a part of the voting system (there was also a voting over traditional phone lines). In 2005, the Eurovision Song Contest organized the biggest televoting ever (with SMS and phone voting).

United States

In the United States, however, the appeal of SMS is more limited. Although an SMS message usually costs only US$0.15 (many providers also offer monthly text messaging plans), only 13 messages were sent by the average user per month in 2003. In the US, SMS is often charged both at the sender and at the destination, but it cannot be rejected or dismissed, as opposed to the phone calls. The reasons for this are varied—many users have unlimited "mobile-to-mobile" minutes, high monthly minute allotments, or unlimited service. Moreover, push to talk services offer the instant connectivity of SMS and are typically unlimited. Furthermore, the integration between competing providers and technologies necessary for cross-network text messaging has only been available recently. Some providers originally charged extra to enable use of text, further reducing its usefulness and appeal. The relative popularity of e-mail-based devices such as the BlackBerry in North America may be a response to the weakness of text messaging there, but these further weaken the appeal of texting among the users most likely to use it. However the recent addition of Cingular-powered SMS voting on the television program American Idol
has introduced many Americans to SMS, and usage is on the rise In the third quarter of 2006, more than 10 billion text messages crossed Cingular's network, up almost 15 percent from the preceding quarter.

In the United States, while texting is widely popular among the ages of 10-25 years old, it is increasing among adults and business users as well. According to both the Mobile Marketing Association and Pew Internet & American Life Project Surveys, 40% of US Mobile phone users text. The split by age group is as follows: 13-24's: 80% text, 18-27's 63% text, 28-39's: 31% text, 40-49's: 18% text. The amount of texts being sent in the United States has gone up over the years as the price has gone down to an average of $0.10 per text sent and received. Many providers also will make unlimited texting available for a lower price.


In addition to SMS voting, a different phenomenon has risen in more mobile-phone-saturated countries. In Finland some TV channels began "SMS chat", which involved sending short messages to a phone number, and the messages would be shown on TV a while later. Chats are always moderated, which prevents sending harmful material to the channel. The craze soon became popular and evolved into games, first slow-paced quiz and strategy games. After a while, faster paced games were designed for television and SMS control. Games tend to involve registering one's nickname, and after that sending short messages for controlling a character on screen. Messages usually cost 0.05 to 0.86 Euro apiece, and games can require the player to send dozens of messages. In December 2003, a Finnish TV-channel, MTV3, put a Santa character on air reading aloud messages sent in by viewers. More recent late-night attractions on the same channel include "Beach Volley", in which the bikini-clad female hostess blocks balls "shot" by short message. On March 12 2004, the first entirely "interactive" TV-channel "VIISI" began operation in Finland. That did not last long though, as SBS Finland Oy took over the channel and turned it into a music channel named "The Voice" in November 2004.

In 2006, the Prime Minister of Finland, Matti Vanhanen, made front page news when he allegedly broke up with his girlfriend with a text message.

In 2007, the first text message only book, which is about a business executive who travels throughout Europe and India, was published by a Finnish author.


Japan was among the first countries to widely adopt short messages, with pioneering non-GSM services including J-Phone's "SkyMail" and NTT Docomo's "Short Mail". However, short messaging has been largely rendered obsolete by the prevalence of mobile Internet e-mail, which can be sent to and received from any e-mail address, mobile or otherwise. That said, while usually presented to the user simply as a uniform "mail" service (and most users are unaware of the distinction), the operators may still internally transmit the content as short messages, especially if the destination is on the same network.


The Philippines is known as the ‘text capital of the world’. ‘Presently each mobile phone user in the Philippines is sending out at least 10 text messages a day compared to about 3 text messages per user in the United Kingdom (Pertierra 2005a; cf. Ling 2004). About one Filipino in two is a subscriber to a mobile phone service.

At the end of 2005 four of the top mobile phone service providers in the country stated there were 34.78 million mobile phone subscribers in the Philippines, this was up from 32.94 million the year before.

One of the main reasons text messages became so popular in the Philippines is the affordabilty. In addition, text messaging was generally more reliable compared to a fixed phone line or relying on poor mobile phone coverage that included drop-outs.

The term Generation Y first appeared in an August 1993 magazine AD Age editorial to describe those children born between 1981–1995. The scope of the term has changed greatly since then, to include, in many cases, anyone born as early as 1976 and late as 2000.

Use of the term Generation Y to describe any cohort of individuals is controversial for a variety of reasons. "Generation Y" alludes to a succession from "Generation X", a term which was originally coined as a pejorative label.

While Generation Y alludes to that cohort's successive relationship to Generation X, the term Echo Boomers is used to allude to the generation's close tie to the primary childbearing years of Baby Boomers; the term Second Baby Boom is also used in this way and to denote the population expansion that Generation Y represents. The terms Millennials and Internet generation ("iGen") are attempts to give the Gen Y cohort more independent names that are tied with key events and cultural trends that are strongly associated with the generation. No single term is the "correct" term to describe members of this generation.

Generation Y are primarily children of the Baby boomers and Generation Jones, though some are children of older Gen X adults. Because of this, there is a perceived tendency to share social views with the Boomers and culture with Gen X, who serve chiefly as their 'older cousins' or even older siblings. The actual “Echo Boom” was a five year span between 1989 and 1993 when for the first time since 1964, the number of live births reached over four million. Previously, even the rate of 1965 (3.76 million) was not reached until 1985. Also, the birthrate of 1971 (17.2%) has yet to be reached according to the 2000 census.

A notable demographic shift should begin to occur in 2011 when the oldest Baby Boomers (b. 1946) hit the United States' legal retirement age of 65. As Boomers retire, more members of Generation X will be expected to take roles in middle and upper management and the large membership of Generation Y should take up positions in the lower half of the workforce, a process which may have possibly begun, since some definitions have members of Gen Y in their late 20s.

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