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OMG! Text messaging in decline for the first time

A wireless industry research report says both messaging revenue and total volume declined in the third quarter in the U.S., a first for both.

Two users of iOS can avoid carriers' SMS services by sending iMessages instead.

If ever a story called for the use of an emoticon, this would be the one: text messaging volume in the U.S. has declined for the first time ever, according to a new research report.

Regardless of whether the emoticon you'd assign to the story is a smiley or a sad face, it's worth noting that after years as a growing communications medium, texting may be starting to fall victim to new market trends, at least insofar as it generates revenues for wireless carriers.

In a report looking at the U.S. mobile data market in the third quarter, Chetan Sharma wrote that although other western countries have already started to see falling revenue in the messaging segment, this was the first time that American carriers have both mirrored that revenue pattern and seen a drop in the total volume of SMS messages sent.

Sharma attributed the declines to "the rise of IP messaging" and the fact that "operators have been slow to evolve their strategies in the segment." That means that services like Apple's iMessage -- a system that lets two iOS users send free SMS-like messages to each other -- are cutting into carriers' bottom lines.

At the same time, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social networks are surely taking up some of the messaging slack as younger users look for alternatives to traditional SMS. At the same time, tools like Apple's Find My Friends may allow some people to avoid using text messaging in environments -- like concerts -- where the service was once the only way to locate each other.

"It might be early to say if the decline has begun or the market segment will sputter along before the decline takes place," the report stated.

But to those paying attention, the report may not come as a surprise at all. In June 2011, the Wall Street Journal surmised that text messaging might have already peaked.