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SMS still in the game 28 years later

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Today marks 28 years since the world's first short message service – or the SMS – was sent with a message that simply read “Merry Christmas".

On 3 December 1992, the first SMS was sent via Vodafone UK's GSM network by computer programmer Neil Papworth.

A test engineer, he sent the message as an experiment from his PC to his friend and Vodafone employee Richard Jarvis's phone.

Since then, the history of text messages has evolved to include Rich Communication Suite (RCS) messaging, social media and instant messaging, which have each transformed the world.

SMS has also become a popular marketing tool and continues to be a communications channel used by financial, health and public sector organisations.

It’s estimated that more than five billion people across the globe can send and receive text messages, to date.

A study by Juniper Research indicates global mobile business messaging traffic will increase by 10% by year-end to 2.7 trillion, up from 2.5 trillion in 2019. The mobile business messaging market comprises three main messaging protocols, namely SMS, RCS and over-the-top messaging applications.

Text messaging in history

1992: Papworth sends the first text message, sparking what would be a global revolution in telecommunication services.

1994: Radiolinja becomes the first network to offer a person-to-person short message service.

1997: AOL launches AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), allowing registered users to communicate in real-time.

1998: Yahoo Messenger launches, allowing users with a registered Yahoo ID to connect with each other.

1999: SMS messages begin being sent via cross-networks to enable users to communicate with people using different networks regionally and even globally.

2001: Clickatell launches global SMS API.

2002: SMS gains popularity, with more than 250 billion messages sent worldwide.

2002: Apple launches iChat, which is compatible with AIM, allowing users to connect.

2003: Skype is launched, allowing users to connect through video, voice and instant messaging.

2005: Google Talk is introduced to allow Google e-mail holders to connect.

2006: Twitter is launched with its now-iconic 140-character limit.

2006: MySpace introduces MySpaceIM, the first instant messaging platform built within a social network.

2007: RCS messaging initiative is kicked off by the GSM Association.

2007: The one billion text messages per day milestone is reached in the US.

2008: The United Way creates the first ‘text to donate’ campaign.

2008: Facebook Chat is launched, allowing users to connect in a private chat.

2009: WhatsApp is born, enabling users to send texts, pictures and videos.

2009: WeChat and Snapchat are introduced, with the latter providing a privacy feature that automatically deletes messages after 24 hours.

2013: Slack is introduced as the workplace software to allow employees to communicate easily with each other.

2017: Android’s default texting app gets a facelift and becomes Android Messages.

2018: WhatsApp launches the WhatsApp Business app for small businesses and the WhatsApp Business API for larger companies.

2019: WeChat records one billion daily active users.

2020: WhatsApp reaches two billion users globally.

Details of the evolution of text messaging were supplied by Clickatell.

See also