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Twitter discovers MMS for photo tweeting

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Twitter users can now pump pictures directly into their tweet stream using the Multimedia Messaging Service that has been languishing, barely used, for years.

In the UK the service is already working on O2, Vodafone and Orange. Once one has registered a phone number with the networking site, photographs sent to the Twitter short code will pop up in the stream to the delight and amazement of one's colleagues and friends – and one's operator, who has been trying to flog MMS for a decade or so.

But what's really surprising is that this has taken so long to happen; MMS was the driving principle that put cameras into phones but bad implementation, customer confusion and lack of interest resulted in the service being largely ignored.

Even now Twitter can't bring itself to use the term MMS, instead claiming it has enabled users to "share a photo via text message". So it seems MMS will join WAP as term which has become too toxic to name but remains a useful protocol to use.

MMS was launched with aspirations to replace text messaging, as it supports longer messages and the addition of audio, video and pictures as well as animated slideshows using the SMIL standard. It was even suggested it could be used to deliver voice mail direct to the handset.

But the more-cautious operators titled it Picture Messaging to the confusion of customers, while the lack of codec standards meant sending anything more complicated was entirely dependent on the receiver's capabilities. MMS also has no size restriction, to avoid the pitfall of SMS, so operators imposed their own... This led to the memorable situation where a picture taken on a Nokia 7650 would send as an MMS as long as the photo's subject wasn't too cluttered (and thus wouldn't compress as much).

These days many operators transcode content to make sure it works, and limits are much larger, but the opportunity has now passed, with the target demographic having already moved on to using email or BBM instead.

Which equally applies to Twitter's MMS support, when all but the most basic of handsets will run a Twitter client and few users are relying on SMS to keep their tweets up to date, in the UK at least.

But the service is international, with supported operators in the US, Italy, Canada, Bahrain and Brazil, so local tariffs might make it practical, and if one has a tariff with bundled of MMS messages it might make sense – is not as if they're useful for anything else. ®

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