While there has been a lot of talk afoot about the newly launched Facebook Usernames feature, I took some time to evaluate the Facebook Mobile Texts experience.  I was blissfully unaware of the SMS features that existed previously, until receiving a prompt on my Facebook to go and check it out, which I did,  and I must admit it seems very handy and quite alarming how much money they could be spending on this little feature that is buried away in the bowels of the site.sms1

The sign-up process was very simple and involves sending a text to a shortcode which then replies with a subscription code that needs to be entered on the site to confirm your mobile number.

At the moment Vodacom is the only listed provider and South Africa is the only African country listed, one of 19 countries in all. So we seem to be very lucky.

There’s a comprehensive config where you can tweak parameters such as delivery times, which types of notices you want etc. Most interesting is the option to receive status updates via sms, when you combine this with the ability to send in your own status update via SMS one starts to see the beginning of a very powerful little group text delivery system which could prove to be a very cost effective real time communication tool to your group of friends. Yes, it seems there is no charge above normal operators charges. Ofcourse MXit is still cheaper in the long run but its not as real time as an SMS, which the recipient is immediately made aware of. To prevent this from turning into a fullblown free-for-all you cannot easily subscribe to all of your friends status updates, but have to manually key in their names on a form.logo_facebook

Furthermore their is a nice keyword language you can use when sending in updates in order to perform different actions like, “wall john smith happy bday” to write on a friends wall and “note this is a mobile note” to write a note.

If they start releasing this to more African countries I can see this developing into a popular “chat via status” tool via SMS if it remains effectively free.  (I will be keeping an eye on those charges)

I wonder how facebook looks to recoup losses, perhaps they are planning to make some back on mobile ads, but right now it seems like a dead loss.