Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How common are common shortcodes?

Philip Hodgen brought my attention to a post in the Twitter blog:

@oemperor - did you see that all is kiss-kiss-love-love between T-Mobile and Twitter? See the Twitter blog. I rewarded T-Mo with $$$.

So I went to the Twitter blog. This is what he said. This is what Biz Stone said.

Last week Twitter stopped working over T-Mobile without notice. We were confused and jumped into the conversation on Get Satisfaction with limited information. Over the weekend we were able to determine that this was purely a technical issue between T-Mobile and Ericsson, the folks who serve our SMS traffic.

T-Mobile does not have a policy against Twitter—in fact, they like us. This was a technical bug, now resolved.

Biz went to to mention that the support from the Twitter community was "impressive."

As you may expect, there were several comments to this post, several of which rehashed items which have previously been discussed in this blog and elsewhere. However, Hiro Protagonist raised a new issue:

T-Mobile is pretty strict about their SMS programs adhering to their guidelines, and Twitter doesn't. For example, sending HELP to Twitter doesn't tell users about the STOP keyword or identifies Twitter by name. Another example is the 'invite' feature, where you can invite other users by phone number. The MMA guidelines for SMS programs specifically prohibit this.

Which brings us to the more general question - how do we know whether or not a carrier (be it T-Mobile, Verizon, or whoever) supports a particular shortcode? As was noted previously in this blog, carriers are NOT obligated to support SMS shortcodes. Here is what the Common Short Code Administration says on the matter:

Once you have registered a CSC, the next step is to implement it so it can be used in your mobile application....

Even though you are leasing a Common Short Code from the Registry, you still must negotiate activation of your Common Short Code with each of the Wireless Carriers. This is a separate agreement between you and the carrier for which neither the Registry nor the CSCA has any control. Failure to reach agreement with any Wireless Carrier to carry traffic through a leased CSC is not the responsibility of the Registry or the CSCA, nor will any refund be provided....

Each participating wireless service provider must decide for itself whether or not to accept the routing of your CSC within their network. Wireless service providers will make their decision based on a number of criteria, including i) the content provider; ii) their experience in working with you and your partners; iii) the type of CSC application; iv) the amount and type of promotion of the CSC; v) the estimated message volumes; vi) the timing of your CSC; and vii) the number of other CSC applications in implementation....

In order to connect to a wireless service provider's network and begin sending message traffic related to your CSC, you must enter into an agreement with the wireless service provider. Working with Connectivity Aggregators that have existing contracts with the wireless service providers may facilitate the process.

computer.org provides more details:

Another important aspect of common short codes is that the mobile content providers who register them must agree to a long list of network operator rules and restrictions. For example, the following is a statement for text message content from a typical short code registration agreement:

The following content is not allowed: adult (swimsuit pictures are ok), or any unlawful, harmful, threatening, defamatory, obscene, harassing, or racially, ethically or otherwise objectionable content. Services that facilitate illegal activity, gambling, promote violence, promote discrimination, promote illegal activities, or incorporate any materials that infringe or assist others to infringe on any copyright, trademark, or other intellectual property rights are prohibited.

In many cases, network operators even provide lists of inappropriate words that cannot be used within the content that traverses their networks. They can decide to shut down your short code if you breach the agreement you signed to gain access to their network. These restrictions are considerably different from the Internet.

And this just talks about the carriers. I haven't even gotten into the aggregators, who are a whole different beast altogether.

I return to my earlier question - how do we know whether or not a carrier (be it T-Mobile, Verizon, or whoever) supports a particular shortcode? Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, we don't - unless a carrier or a shortcode owner advertises the fact.

In an effort to find out the answer to the general question, I have started a topic at getsatisfaction. We'll see what happens.

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