Services & Software

Google's free SMS gravy train dries up

Google is shutting off third-party access to its SMS data pipeline as part of Google Talk. Third party developers who apparently overwhelmed the system will no longer be able to use it.

CNET Networks / Josh Lowensohn

Google on Wednesday will close off access to the part of Google Talk that lets third-party developers send and receive text messages. Third-party applications, such as Infinite SMS for the iPhone and desktop chat software that made use of this XMPP pathway will no longer be able to freely send text messages to other mobile phones.

The company simply no longer wanted to foot the bill for that part of Google Talk's API, according to a Google statement posted by Infinite SMS creators Innerfence. "While Google is supportive of third party apps, we've decided we can't support this particular usage of our system at this time," the company said. Google also cited that the SMS feature was part of a labs project, presumably to note it not being a fully-baked feature, thus not belonging in the API.

While cheaper than they used to be, text messages still cost something. Without control over the applications that were using it, Google simply became a service provider that wasn't charging. For the highly popular iPhone application Infinite SMS, this meant the creators could focus on building features on top of Google's data pipe, something done with a dozen other Google services with APIs like Google Maps, custom search, and Open Social.

The clear difference in this case is that an SMS message itself is difficult to monetize. Carriers charge a hefty sum for the privilege of sending what amounts to just a few bytes of data. But for a company like Google, one of the only hopes of adding onto that is with external ads or a paid service to let you send them. Offering it free through an API offered neither of these avenues.

(via TechFlash)