November 26, 2004 TXT MOB, an innovative social application for SMS services, enables the networking of community groups for on-the-ground information sharing. TXTMob lets you quickly and easily share text messages with friends and total strangers in a format similar to an email b-board system. Like email, you can sign up to send and receive messages from various groups, which are organized around a range of different topics.
TXT Mob begins when a user registers their mobile phone number and service provider. TXT MOB asks customers to provide an email address where a txt message can be sent containing a secret code that can be entered on the website for phone activation.
A group is a collection of TXT MOB members who share TXT messages via mobile phone. There are currently three types of groups - Public: a public group is one which any TXT MOB member may join.Private: membership in a private group is limited by the group's administrators. Secret: secret groups are similar to private groups in that membership is restricted by the group's administrators. However, membership in secret groups is by invitation only; secret groups do not appear in group directories and uninvited members are unable to sign up. In addition, groups can be "Moderated," in which case messages may only be sent by the group's administrators, and "TXT Mobbers" can only send to groups of which they are members.
Messages are sent from the TXT MOB website and delivered to all members of a selected group, or alternatively, users may also send a message directly their phone by simply addressing a message to [GROUP_NAME]@txtmob.com. Users can also view all messages that have been sent to one of their groups.
TXT MOB is offered as a free online service but the creators warn that individual mobile phone service providers may charge to send and/or receive messages, and that all service agreements should be checked before texting.
TXT MOB was first developed by the Institute for Applied Autonomy (IAA), an art and engineering collective that develops technologies for political dissent. Protest organisers used TXT MOB to provide activists with up-to-the minute information about police movements and direct actions during the recent Democratic National Convention in Boston and the Republican National Convention in New York. Medical and legal support groups also used TXT MOB to dispatch personnel and resources as the situation demanded.
The future of SMS networks
In the same way that social networking has exploded online with recent phenomenon like Friendster connecting people in searchable databases, TXT MOB now promises similar community connectivity with mobile phones. Future applications could be enormous, with people able to utilise group text messaging in the real-world social environment.
Tad Hirsch, a researcher in MIT's Computing Culture Group offers TXT MOB as a free service to the general public, and is currently coordinating a major software upgrade. If you wish to help with development or are interested in adapting the technology for your organisation or event, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org