Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 25th Mar 2012 21:28 UTC
In the News A few months ago, I wrote an article about comments, in which I said, among others things, that Twitter can never replace comments because not only is it effectively a one-to-one communication channel, Twitter messages are also far too short to foster any form of coherent conversation. Over the weekend, a silly link-bait story illustrated my point perfectly.
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RE: 140 characters
by Neolander on Mon 26th Mar 2012 06:44 UTC in reply to "140 characters"
Neolander
Member since:
2010-03-08

I find twitter to be a complete waste of the web. I actually like the concept, but Twitter itself is stupid. This is the internet, not a cel phone messaging system. There is no reason to limit people to 140 characters at all. It not only creates simple issues such as message length and encourages ridiculous bastardizations and shortcuts of language (fine for the rap subculture I suppose, but useless to the intelligent people in the world), but also requires you to use URL shorteners and all sorts of other crap just to attempt to get your words out.

Take this one step further : why are texts still 160 chars long (or 70 if you add just one single Unicode character) in 2012 ? And why does a message weighting less than 1 KB cost around 10 cents in most countries ?

I can imagine that those who wrote the SMS standard forgot to include a way to change the size of a unitary message later. I can also imagine that they kept the length so low on purpose, in order to higher the odds that part of the message gets transmitted in low signal conditions. After all, SMSs were initially designed for carrier broadcasts. But why do we still have to care about these ugly internals of the SMS standard today ? Why can't we just type a message that's 1000 unicode chars long, press send, and let the machine figure out for itself how it is going to send it without paying a premium ?

As far as I'm concerned, any kind of character limit on a person-to-person message that lies in the hundreds of character range is part of an evil scheme to weaken our orthographic and argumentative skills in order to prepare the advent of newspeak for the sake of world domination.

Edited 2012-03-26 06:52 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[2]: 140 characters
by daveak on Mon 26th Mar 2012 06:50 in reply to "RE: 140 characters"
daveak Member since:
2008-12-29

The size of SMS is low because it sits on the back of the control signals that are always being sent from phone to tower. There isn't any more space to make them larger unless you send them as data, which then isn't "free" bandwidth (from the carrier point of view). So yes it is left low on purpose but nothing to do with low signal conditions.

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[3]: 140 characters
by Neolander on Mon 26th Mar 2012 06:55 in reply to "RE[2]: 140 characters"
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

The size of SMS is low because it sits on the back of the control signals that are always being sent from phone to tower. There isn't any more space to make them larger unless you send them as data, which then isn't "free" bandwidth (from the carrier point of view). So yes it is left low on purpose but nothing to do with low signal conditions.

Does this mean that in effect, carriers barely pay an extra in terms of bandwidth for every SMS message that is being sent and that they gently charge a hefty price for ?

This is even worse than I thought ! ;)

Edited 2012-03-26 06:56 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 3

jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

I'd just be happy if transmission could be trusted. I've lost count the number of times an sms has been recieved hours or days after I've sent it. A dropped email is unheard of but dropped or delayed sms.. all the time.. wtf is that?

Reply Parent Score: 3

bogomipz Member since:
2005-07-11

All phones I ever owned have had a setting to be notified when the message reaches its receiver. I do not use it, but has noticed the setting is there. I have not upgraded to what is currently considered a smartphone, though, and wouldn't be too surprised if they lacked this feature. (I'm pretty sure my phone was markeded as a smartphone before iOS and Android arrived, but whatever.)

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: 140 characters
by darknexus on Mon 26th Mar 2012 19:24 in reply to "RE: 140 characters"
darknexus Member since:
2008-07-15

Take this one step further : why are texts still 160 chars long (or 70 if you add just one single Unicode character) in 2012 ? And why does a message weighting less than 1 KB cost around 10 cents in most countries ?


You know, this is precisely where Apple could really shake things up and get competition going again, if they cared to. Take iMessage. Let's say they offered it free to Apple device users, then made apps for Android, WP7, and Windows (if you can trust Apple with Windows software after what they've done with iTunes) and charged users of those apps a subscription, perhaps $5 per month? This would encourage the carriers to compete, which would bring the cost down and may even improve the total user experience for everyone along the way. More apps would mean more people using iMessage instead of the carrier plans, this would mean that carriers lost money and had to make something better, and everyone would win in the end. It's too bad that Apple doesn't realize the opportunity they have here, and would rather keep such services locked to their own devices. They have every right to do this of course, but it does sadden me to see so much potential for improvement go unexploited. Apple are one of the few companies who could do this successfully in our climate of business, as they've got not only the money but the legal force to resist attacks by other large giants.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: 140 characters
by phoenix on Mon 26th Mar 2012 20:57 in reply to "RE: 140 characters"
phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

There's ~180 bytes of padding in every single GSM control packet. This is mandated in the GSM specs.

Someone decided to capitalise on this "wasted" space in each packet, and came up with SMS, a simple way to transmit 160 characters (plus destination number and whatnot) between devices.

In effect, SMS is "free", as those 180 bytes are transmitted everytime, whether it's all zero-padding or an SMS message. The fact the telcos charge *ANYTHING* for an SMS message just shows the level of their greed. ;)

What's sad is that over a decade (or two?) later, nothing better has come along to replace it. And now, the telcos actually have to over-provision GSM channels in order to provide more bandwidth for the control packets (the part that's supposed to be the least-active). RIM's BBM is the closest we've come to a "standard" text messaging protocol to "replace" SMS, which is really sad.

Reply Parent Score: 4