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Text Messaging Turns 19 Years Old

It’s hard to believe that the world’s most powerful method of communication has been in existence for just 19 years now. And while 19 years may seem like a long time, when compared to other advertising techniques SMS marketing starts to look like an infant.

Text messaging has come a long way since that first “Merry Christmas” text message was sent on December 3, 1992 from then twenty-two year old Neil Papworth. After Papworth sent his maiden text message the world and Americans were slow to adopt this new method of communication, sending on average less than 1 text message every month.

The biggest contributor to the slow adoption rate was cross-carrier compatibility. Sprint subscribers could not send text messages to Verizon subscribers and Verizon subscribers could not sent messages to their friends on AT&T.

Not until 1999 did carriers finally start allowing text messages to be sent between their competing systems. With this change the average American sent 35 text messages every month.

By 2003 short codes were introduced to American consumers, and the TV show American Idol was exchanging over 7.5 million text messages in only their second season on air. The average cost per text message to consumers at this time was only 10 cents.

To date text messaging has drummed up more than $585 billion for mobile operators worldwide and is expected to exceed $1 trillion over the next seven years.

The guys over at Tatango have put together an interesting timeline of notable text marketing milestones since that fateful message was sent 19 years ago.