Lies, damn lies, and twits.

On April 27th, Twitter announced that “Twittering via sms in Australia is more expensive than it needs to be—for you and for us. Our short term solution is to suspend sms support for Australian users.” (dates/times in this article are in whatever time zone Twitter use on their blog).

This didn’t make sense to me: SMS costs exactly the same for me regardless of the location of the recipient, and it always has. I can understand how it’s more expensive for Twitter, as this doesn’t seem to be the case in less civilized parts of the world – but they explicitly said that it’s more expensive than it needs to be for me as well, which it’s not.

A few hours later, they got their first comment, from an Australian. In the response to that comment, biz said:

The old access number was not good for users or us (if it was only costing us more than necessary we would have left it in place.)

Again: there is no way they could have made it cost less for me, a user. I pay the same amount, no matter where my SMS goes to – there’s no way they can make it cost less than it already was. This comment still does not make any sense at all to me.

A while later, Dave asked if the exact cost difference between sending SMS to Aus. vs the rest of the world could be clarified. This question was never answered.

Much later, elliot suggested use of a service which turns emails into twitters. However, sending an email from my phone requires sending an MMS – something that costs twice as much as sending an SMS. Clearly, not a solution.

Eventually, james (oh wait – that’s me!) addressed this:

I don’t understand your claim that the service as it was is “not good for users”, and the direct implication that it was costing users more than it should.

I pay nothing to get twitter updates via SMS. No-one in Australia pays to receive SMS.

I pay ~25 cents to send an SMS update. All providers that I’m aware of in Australia charge around this amount. I’d pay exactly the same if you had an Australian number that I was SMSing.

What am I missing? How is the service “not good” for me? How are you going to save anyone other than yourself money by finding some alternate arrangement?

lachlan hardy, the first commenter, responded with some detail I didn’t know:

James,

because the Twitter number (either US or UK) is international your provider will be charging you international rates. What those rates are depend on your provider and your package

I pay 29c per international SMS as opposed to 22c for domestic. I felt it was worth it – but as you can see above Ashley was being charged 80c per message

Obviously a domestic number to text to is better for everyone (including Twitter Inc). I might wish they had done things a little differently (or been able to), but at least they’re headed in the right direction

Well, that confused me. I went and checked rates online; sure enough, only Vodafone charges the same for nation as for international SMS. Telstra and Optus had charges between 30c and 45c per international SMS.

So, fair enough, I can now see how a domestic number would be better for users. I apologised for my rant and backed down.

Just today, Twitter has finally announced that SMS is now again available for Australian users. Great! you say. A domestic number!, you say. No more of those pesky surcharges for sending international SMS!, you say.

Well, no.

New International Support +447624801423 is our new UK longcode. With this new number, Australia is once again fully supported over SMS. Thanks for your patience, mates!

Patience? No, I have no patience. Stop lying to me!

We were told, once in the original announcement, and once in a comment from Biz, that the reason for the change was that it was too expensive for users to send international SMS. Further, we were told that if it was only too expensive for Twitter, they’d have left things in place.

Despite this, the “solution” is still an international number. It might, perhaps, be cheaper for Twitter; as sure as hell, it’s no cheaper for users.

Twitter, it’s time to come clean. What’s it costing you? Why are you lying to us about your reasons for barring our access? When are we going to have what you promised us, an SMS option that doesn’t cost more than it has to?

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