SMS is the abbreviated form of the term “short message service.” This is a function made available through mobile phones, internet-connected computers, or handheld gadgets like the Blackberry. Here, users can type, send or receive two or three lines of information (approximately 200 to 300 words). They can send it to another person (called SMS-PP) or to the general public, as in the ase of region-specific advertising messages (called SMS-CB).
The technology for SMS existed since 1985, but it wasn’t until the mid-1990’s that it was used by the general public. However, SMS’ popularity has so steadily increased that today it is impossible to think of communication without it. In just four years (from 2000 to 2004) it ballooned from 20 billion SMS messages to 500 billion.
SMS is more popular in Southeast Asia, since it is considered a cheaper alternative to making cell phone calls. Europe is the second-largest SMS user, and the United States seems to be the last to jump on the SMS bandwagon.
In order to cram as much information into an SMS message, people have resorted to using abbreviations or SMS code. In some cases, words are spelled phonetically, like “hu r u?” for “who are you?” Sometimes, numbers are used to replace letters: “w8 4 me” means “wait for me.”
SMS is also being used as a marketing and advertising tool, or even as a way of generating profit. For example, shows like American Idol allow viewers to vote for their candidates via SMS. Other companies send ads via SMS, or provide services that allow users to download information into their phone by texting a particular number. SMS has also been used for public service campaigns, like collecting donations for Haiti earthquake victims by texting to the Red Cross.