Yahoo has thrown down the gauntlet for a second time this year with an announcement that they will be incorporating a mail to phone system that will allow Yahoo mailers to send text messages to cellular phones. Interestingly enough, it is not the first time that people have been able to send text messages over the Internet. There were a few companies that did, but gradually the services dwindled and disappeared, or became paying services. We may now see a resurgence of free SMS services being provided..
But one has to wonder if the SMS or MMS a dying medium. As a cellular phone user in Japan, I am not able to send or receive such messages. All messaging here is done via email. The provider AU has been allowing its users to receive e-mails of almost unlimited length for at least the last five years. Mail prices are negligible compared to the astronomical fees that members of my family living in Australia have to pay to send text messages. Do not get me wrong, there are a few things about the Japanese cellular system that I do not care for. Handsets are locked to a single provider, and no phone sports Wi-Fi, to my knowledge. For messaging, however, Japan’s system is definitely the light at the end of the tunnel.
Yahoo’s new offering probably won’t steal a great many people away from Google, but it will encourage more people t o open a Yahoo account. Even if SMS / MMS are not long for this world, Yahoo looks certain to draw in a lot of extra subscribers. Free SMS / MMS is an enormous draw card, coupled with their very attractive GUI, it just might give them the market edge they need in the short term.