Is Texting Waning? Or Waxing?

From a technological point of view, the riots that rocked London, in August, last year, were significantly different from the unrest that toppled the Arab dictators, Hosni Mubarak, Zine El Abidine, and Muammar Gaddafi, in the spring of the same year.

For the first time, the rioters took to BlackBerry Messenger to rouse a crowd. Not Twitter. Not Facebook. Unlike Twitter, the service encrypts almost all messages when they leave the sender’s phone. They are, therefore, untraceable.

The findings of a research firm, OVUM, recently reported in the BBC, found that Wi-Fi-based social-messaging apps had eaten into the profits of SMS (short for Short Messaging Service.) The cellphone companies had incurred staggering losses of $13.9 billion in 2011.

One reason, the study revealed, social-messaging apps, such as Whatsapp, and BlackBerry Messenger, have been gaining steady ascendancy, is that they are free (sort of.) Texting, on the other hand, is a paid service.

If texting is waning in one part of the world, in other parts, it’s waxing.

A smartphone, essentially, an Internet-enabled cellphone, is an infinitely more high-maintenance device than one without one, which only enables calls and texts. In essence, one pays for a smartphone. Besides, social messaging is certainly not taking over the world.

In fact, in the world’s largest democracy, the largest social network is not Facebook—surprise—but SMS GupShup, a group messaging service, which, per a recent TechCrunch, report, boasted an impressive 45 million members, and handled two billion messages a month.

The soaring popularity of texting in India has been capitalized on by Just Dial, simplistically defined, as a text-based Yellow Page service.

With 57 million registered subscribers, Just Dial is one of the biggest beneficiaries of Indians’ love of texting. Set up in 1996 as a sort of phone-based yellow pages, it initially offered a fixed-line voice-based service dispensing information about the nearest coffee shop, electrician, tarot-card reader, hospital, or whatever else the caller happened to be looking for. “We would read out information which they would then write down on a piece of paper,” recalls V.S.S. Mani, the company’s founder.

People preferred it to the clunky, state-published phone directories.

Then, in 2002, India discovered mobile phones.

The pieces of paper were replaced by a text message. Today, 95% of Just Dial’s callers ask for the response to be texted to them.

The company launched into the U.S. market, in May of last year.

h/t: THE ECONOMIST

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