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Summary:

Earlier this morning I met with Sarik Weber, co-founder of Hamburg, Germany-based mobile callback service, Cellity. He brought me up to speed on his company, but he also mentioned that they had launched a Facebook application that allows you to send free SMS messages to anyone […]

Sarik Weber co-founder of CellityEarlier this morning I met with Sarik Weber, co-founder of Hamburg, Germany-based mobile callback service, Cellity. He brought me up to speed on his company, but he also mentioned that they had launched a Facebook application that allows you to send free SMS messages to anyone worldwide.

I signed up for the app but also looked at the competitive landscape and found that there are around three dozen (free) SMS-related apps, but they have little or no usage. Even the best ones get about 500 users a day, though most have fewer than 50 daily users. (Related story: 5 Ways to SMS for free.)

The state of these SMS apps is no different from many social voice applications (voice widgets). The only difference being that the VoIP widgets have high incidence of installs but comparatively low daily usage.

App Name Daily active users % of total
Babuki SMS 645 3%
Send SMS 2,099 0%
Shickclick 1,106 5%
SMS 500 2%
SMSfree 224 6%

These two examples make me question the viability of Facebook as a communications hub. Our columnist Daniel Berninger has eloquently made an argument for a social directory that uses Facebook and other social networks to break away from the current paradigm of numeric phone numbers.

He is part of a group that believes social networks could be used to authenticate our “communication” relationships. I don’t necessarily disagree with Daniel, but the usage metrics of SMS and voice apps makes me wonder if Facebookers really want to do anything more than throw Vampire Bites, Scrabble and pretend to have a lot of friends.

  1. Nope, we really don’t want to do anything more than that… Oh, and look at all the pictures of our drunken college escapades in order to remember exactly what happened the night before. But that’s about it. I don’t think it’s going to be easy to squeeze money from poor college students.

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  2. Perhaps SMS is just about the most low-brain means to communicate. Maybe Facebook users are too literate to bother with SMS idiocy?

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  3. @ Michael,

    Low brow doesn’t necessarily mean bad way to communicate. However, Facebook might not be the ideal gateway it seems.

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  4. [...] Om Malik discussed a conversation he had with Sarik Weber who’s company had developed a free SMS application on [...]

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  5. I would think that most of the people who know much about SMS and would use it more than occasionally already have an SMS plan with their mobile provider and simply send SMS messages using their phone. Why would I go to my computer and open Facebook when I can simply tap out a text anywhere using my phone? I don’t mind paying for a plan to get the convenience factor.

    Also, note that Facebook’s Mobile application currently logs nearly 400,000 daily active users. People (including myself) use it all the time to interact with Facebook both in sending and receiving SMS/EMS messages.

    I personally don’t see how your concluding sentence follows from the rest of the article… I’ve looked at some of the Facebook SMS apps, but they didn’t really make sense to me. (Make sense in terms of purpose and features, not in terms of usability.)

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  6. Nobody uses SMS in the U.S.

    Nobody uses SMS through Facebook.

    Therefore, Facebook is not a viable communications hub.

    Makes perfect sense to me!

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  7. SMS might as well stand for “Substitute Message Service,” since it is really a lower-quality alternative to email.

    SMS doesn’t thread easily, doesn’t take any attachment, makes it tough to communicate with groups, is only readable from one device, winds up being tough to categorize, store and search, necessarily gives other people access to your phone number…. With greater smart phone penetration it will soon disappear from the rich world.

    It is most popular among teens, who, unlike adults who work in offices, are moving around all day and usually without access to email. Others use it because it’s the only way they can send text-based messages from their dumb phones, or because their friends don’t have email-capable phones (or both).

    Now imagine someone sitting down to a computer and choosing to use SMS instead of email. It’s even dumber than developing an app to enable it.

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  8. @ Joey Tyson

    You say: Why would I go to my computer and open Facebook when I can simply tap out a text anywhere using my phone? I don’t mind paying for a plan to get the convenience factor.

    I thought people were spending days logged into Facebook and lived inside fB and that is why they were the new social OS etc etc etc…. ;-)

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  9. @ Paul,

    You are making same points as I have in the past about, replicating communication functionality inside fB isn’t the answer. Making it compelling, that’s another story. Nice comment by the way.

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  10. You made a good point, Om, we are also currently investigating, how we could promote our cellity freeSMS app on Facebook a little more. It works fine and what´s strange is, that in the mobile world it´s actually one of the most successful free mobile Java clients around. Just check here and also look at the user feedback: http://www.getjar.com/products/10337/cellityfreeSMS

    In order to learn more about how Facebook app building and distribution works in Europe we will organize the first German Facebook Developer Garage in Hamburg, May 14, expecting about 300 Facebook app developers to attend. The next day will be also the Next 08 Web 2.0 conference in Hamburg, so even a far trip from the US could be well worth it. If you are interested in the Developer Garage, please join our Fb group http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=11222753500

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