Stop Whining UK; Twitter Is Building a Business
In case you don't start your day with a way-too-early alarm, way-too-strong coffee, way-too-much on-camera makeup, interspersed with a quick doses of TechMeme, let me fill you in that the talk of the tech blogosphere today is that people in the UK can no longer
send receive Twitters over mobile phones using SMS. After reading Biz Stone's post, I was going to write a quick one myself about how Twitter -- the much loved company that can't always communicate things well-- really nailed its messaging this time. It was out front with the bad news, not hiding it. It was apologetic, but also practical: We've been paying for this, it would cost us at a minimum $1,000 a user to continue, no UK carrier will do a deal with us, so we're working on it. Sounds rational to me.
Yet, somehow there are torches and pitchforks. HUH?
I get that you love Twitter, UK. I love hearing from my UK pals like Robert Loch and Paul Carr via Twitter. Guess what? That means there's market demand and eventually a deal to be worked out with a carrier. In the meantime, there are smart phone apps that skirt SMS and the browser to tide you over.
Could Twitter have charged users as an alternative? Sure. And some would have paid it. But that would start a bad precedent. In order for Twitter to get the SMS deals it needs (and has in the US, Canada and India) to make its business viable, scalable and one day figure out how to make it profitable, it can not be beholden to carriers. Setting the precedent of just passing it onto the users would have put Twitter at a negotiating disadvantage with future deals. They needed to prove they'd walk away, even if it meant shutting down a country partially for a while. This was a smart business move.
Second point: I'm exhausted with the whining over free Web products that are making changes because-- SURPRISE!-- they need to find a way to make money. It's the same as the Facebook Beacon outcry. Um, who really thought they weren't going to leverage everything they know about your likes and dislikes to build a better ad engine? If you truly love the service, you should want them to do this. Otherwise it will go away. The alternative is what I call the Pets.com model. Pets.com was great for pet owners. You got free bags of dog food or cat food shipped to you at no cost on a day's notice. Guess what? It lasted less than a year and they went belly up having spent some $100 million in funding. This is one thing I've always loved about Ning's business model: You can pay us a monthly fee, or you're getting ads. There's no consume-now-we'll-find-a-way-to-charge-you-later mentality or the ensuing user outcry.
Third point: VentureBeat gets the story right and points to the real culprit we should all be mad at: SMS. Until arcane pay-per-text-like attributes of the cell phone market are brutally torn down -- along with all that fragmentation and regulation-- we'll never see this great new renaissance of mobile so many people in the Valley are predicting these days.
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