Irresponsible Development

Over the last few days a minor storm is brewing in the iPhone user community. A week or so ago a new application was released to the iPhone market called Infinite SMS, which touted a cost free method of sending SMS messages to anyone. What the developers didn’t tell the users is that they were using a free to use Google service which was currently in “Labs” status.

With a massive influx of new users, Google decided that it was in their best interest to suspend third-party access to the API, including cutting off existing GTalk users. Google warned the developers of Infinite SMS and the devs pleaded to Google to leave it open while they migrated, two days later Google pulled the plug.

Most developers would just say the service is unavailable and start apologising right? Well not InnerFence. They quickly posted a statement onto their website.

Google will soon block Infinite SMS and all other non-Google software from sending free text messages.

For now, Infinite SMS will continue to work, but when the block goes into effect, you’ll start getting an error every time you try to send a text message.

If you have comments for Google, you can visit their Text Messaging Google Group.

Google has claimed no grievance with Infinite SMS other than its success. Their given reason for the block isn’t abuse or wrongdoing; it’s that we brought too many users (and thus too much cost) to an experimental service.

So, in the face of a hoard of unhappy users the developers just fobbed them off with no responsibility. Then only to add insult to injury:

Apple does not give app developers any way to perform refunds. Hopefully, at 99¢ people will feel like our app paid for itself after only a few messages.

The users, obviously unhappy, have took to the Google Labs message board with their complaints. Some users are even trying to get Google to refund the 99¢ for the application.

Jackbauer24 tries to add some reasoning to the situation, but still misses the point:

I think that there is some confusion as to what it is that has happened here. There is a lot of bad will going around to the creators of Infinite SMS. In reality, the creators had nothing to do with Infinite SMS being shut down. It was a decision by Google and Google alone.

As for Google not wanting to foot the cost for free text messaging (I guess it’s true that nothing is really free) that is totally understandable. But what is kind of surprising to me is the fact that they did not choose to use this program as a source of advertising revenue. It would have been so easy for them to send text messages with advertisements to their users.–they could even send a message after every text sent or received and I don’t think many people would have complained. I’m not sure why Google did what they did, but I hope that they will reconsider.

If anyone actually read the service announcement then you’ll see this service wasn’t a public API for pure SMS, yes, it was publicly accessible via GTalk and GMail services, but can you show me the actual Web API to send these messages? I can assume that Infinite SMS connected to GTalk via XMPP and sent SMS via the service. I feel Google is correct in blocking it as they were abusing their intended use for the service.

Some users have started a petition, to get Google to re-enable the service so they can get their SMS for free. Hell, why should they pay when Google can foot the bill? To quote a comment on the petition:


I’ll just leave you one nugget from hellogoodbye2124:

What is your problem Google? Why did you block Infinite SMS? What am I suppose to do now for texting my family and friends? Could you please unblock it? You guys are being really stupid about this.

Yes, there is no such thing as a free lunch.