surfing the web with sms

I have been wondering seriously about the possibility of using sms or texting (as some people call it) to browse the web or internet! Now what could be the benefit? How could just 160 characters prove that useful or valuable?

I strongly feel that its just that we haven’t given it a strong thought or used this way of info / communication channel to its maximum possible extent. So, I went ahead and thought of ways I would use it I was able to browse the internet or basically have access to webservices (after all thats what sms shortcodes do!) through sms.

  • Surf a website
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Wikipedia
  • Email – mostly send
  • News + basically any RSS
  • Blog
  • More sms based apps – like finding dates, restaurants and offers.

So, basically Iits like a ‘yubnub’ for the mobile phone :-) even when you actually don’t have internet site. Just that the output is delivered back is constricted and giving commands is restricted to 160 characters :-). Output can actually more but there are cost restraints.

I went ahead and wrote a small php app and used the company’s shortcode 676787 (India specific) for some basic activities. Have used the keyword WEB i.e this is the syntax or protocol – sms to 676787: WEB <function> <text>. All of them are pull based and as of now the cost structure is you pay Rs 3 expensive I agree. But here is the list of smses syntax:

  • web mail vinu@mytoday.com How are you doing. I have left home see you in 30 min
  • web dic anarchy
  • web syn magazine
  • web wiki India or web encyl mac
  • web news bbc or web rss <feed url> i.e web rss http://vinu.wordpress.com/rss

Yes, i have not yet implemented the actual surfing and have to do the xmlrpc of blog … Plan to do so soon. But this is what I have to say – if people just had a ‘sms’ usuable or friendly website this idea would be really practical! I think the www world should have a sms tag in the html protocol or a xml protocol.

Now when i emailed that inside my company one of my colleague sent the following reply:

IMHO this is a ridiculous idea. Be practical , Is a common man really itching enough that he would want to access a 2kb wikipaedia page and spend Rs3 for it. Accessing anything from GPRS is far-far better , but still much lesser than satisfying. Esp when you are accessing broadband in the office for 8-10hrs a day

I myself was very excited about mobile mail , and mobile GPRS internet. But now after a few days , the most frequent application I use on the phone is mobile chess :-)

These , ofcourse are my ideas YMMV

I completely understand is point. So, the question is under the current economic structure what are the sms web apps people are ready to pay? Personally I feel for sms based ‘education / information’ services government should make them free. Common adding multi language support and translation on the lines of dictionary and synonyms and encylopedia … is only for the greater good. we should not be making a business out of it!

But of course it makes business most of the times also … if you were reading my blog – sometime back I said I help my DVD shop guy to start a blog and he is entering the latest movies that come there. He thinks its more like website … which is good enough. But I use the RSS and subscribe to the blog. That makes it cool for me. But now with sms – I have taken it to the next step – access about the latest movies he has for people who are not net savvy, who don’t have computers, who solely depend on the cell phone to use it!!

Just sms to 676787:

web news dvd

this reads the titles from the rss feed of his blog – studiodvd.wordpress.com
The output i.e the sms I get back is:

dvd: 1:SHAGGY DOG 2:INSIDE MAN 3: V FOR VENDATTA 4: ASK THE DUST 5: THE BENCHWARMERS 6: entourage season 2 7:EDISON FORCE 8: FINAL DESTINATION 3

Now, you do you think this is live and thriving business model eh?

These kinds of information, I am sure a common man will be willing to pay money for the sms {Rs 3 in the Indian context}! A religious pious person would be willing to pay to know when his local temple is having a special offering to the Almighty. A jazz enthusiast will use it to see what are the latest cds coming in Planet M.

This is in a way – web surfing. What do you say ? Any thoughts to add?

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5 thoughts on “surfing the web with sms

  1. SMS is the most ridiculously overpriced of all online and offline services. At Rs 3 for 160 bytes, that works out to Rs 12000 per MB even after assuming for some protocol overhead!
    Compare that to the Rs 1(?) per MB xferred that you pay for your home broadband connection.
    I’d rather see more ubiquitous GPRS and EDGE services – even ones where you paid by the month. For a couple of months, I had T-Mobile’s T-MobileWeb package. Internet access on my GPRS-phone for $6 a month. Unlimited xfer, but port 80 and 25 only.
    If I were in India, I could easily see myself paying Rs 200-500 a month for such coverage even if total bandwidth was capped.
    I just can’t see myself spending Rs 6 everytime i wanted to know what the weather was going to be like the next day.

  2. It seems that this is more of what people call shoshapnati. SMS can never match up to the conventional thing where browsing is concerned.

  3. I think this is a great idea! I once had an email responder set up on a unix system, that would take any email sent to it, process it (something like fetching the news or even running a small python program sent in the mail) and then send back the results to the same address.

    And, I was using my network provider’s SMS to email gateway at a cost of Rs. 6 per transaction (send + receive). I usually used the setup only to show off ;) And very rarely to actually get the latest news.

    But if this would be cheap/free, I think there are a LOT of possibilities for it. If say, the network provider invited applications from the people and ran them on their servers, for free… a lot of people would use the services. This way, the company knows what is running, it can reject doubtful/troublesome programs and it can gather up a customer base.

    Especially, I would like to have a toll free “pull” advertising feature… where I can send in a SMS, saying – “buy tv”… and they can reply me with 10 SMS advertisements, from various companies – it will be perhaps the only time I will be happy to receive an advertiseon my cellphone. Perhaps a “order dominos cheese 12″ would get me my pizza – with a message sent to Dominos (or your fave pizza wallah) complete with my address.

    All the above ideas hold any value if I can be assured that I won’t be bothered with advertisements at any time – only when I want them, and only what I ask for.

    Still I can imagine a LOT of people would be glued to their mobiles, busy finding the best deal…

    What’s your take on this?

  4. Thoughtsonrails – the idea of getting stuff through your mobile is greate, but i’d rather have the full blown rich web experience rather than the overpriced, underpowered, awkward to type, non-interactive experience that SMS provides me.
    Gimme EVDO, gimme EDGE, gimme GPRS, heck… gimme even WAP…all of them blow away what SMS has to offer.
    The service you mentioned about reminds me of the old days, before the web, when I used to get email through a bbs service. There were some aliases where you could send email to and recieve search results in return. That was before the web, before google, yahoo, altavista and mosaic! We all know how popular that turned out to be :-)

  5. Can anyone recommend me?
    I need an free sms service for my homepage.
    I am seeking one with the option to change the design(for a bit).
    Thanks a million!

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