I had an idea last week while chatting with Alex Payne, one of the Twitter developers.
In the past, I wrote about how Twitter opened up their API for direct messages — which I thought was going to be huge and allow apps/services to be built-off Twitter (I even posted on how to create these Twitter apps). I thought this was the move that would turn Twitter into a platform for mobile (as Facebook has now done for the web).
Well, it wasn’t huge. Why? Because the syntax still sucks for direct messaging in Twitter. In order for any SMS service to really take off, it requires advertising/promotion — and/or a simple way of someone using it that can be communicated to a dummy.
If you had a weather Twitter app — right now you’d have to tell people, send a text of “d weather 14202″ to 40404. You should be able to tell people, send a text to “join weather” or “join weather 14202″ and then the user would get a reply text telling them how to get their weather in the future. [If the user was already joined to the service, it'd tell the user that and remind them how to use that app in the future]
Twitter has the ‘join’ username reserved and has used it in the past (for SXSW, as an example). Users that did ‘join sxsw’ were added to that SXSW “friend” and were basically apart of a group; they were notified whenever some of the other friends in that group were posting twitters.
My recommendation to Twitter is to allow application developers to start writing apps and make use of your ‘join’ username. Maybe you approve apps before they can use ‘join’. But if you make this happen, then I think you’ll see a lot more promotion of your service in offline print (app developers will put money behind their apps using your shortcode/platform), as well as word-of-mouth — because people will be recommending cool apps (that ultimately use your platform).
I could see Twitter becoming the platform for SMS applications, as Facebook is quickly becoming the platform for web applications.
Of course, somehow these apps need to be able to monetize themselves. As do you. So you likely need to start opening up some advertising opportunities within the SMS’ themselves when there are characters still available. Or you could charge app developers usage rates.