MMS APIs are Unlocking the Mobile Future

This guest post comes from Anthony Rossano. As CTO of Mogreet, Anthony directs all backend services, API, and messaging system development and operations. As a data geek, Anthony loves Ruby, NoSQL, clustered databases, key/value store, and stuff like that.  To learn more about Mogreet, text the keyword Mogreet to 51515 (msg&data rates may apply).

Everybody knows about SMS these days, and as it has become a regular part of daily life here in the United States, so too have simple, easy-to-use SMS APIs become available for developers to use. But few people know that MMS - Multimedia Message Service - is just as common and pervasive a part of the U.S. mobile ecosystem, and that MMS APIs are also available.

MMS APIs (like the Mogreet MMS APIs) provide developers with access to the telecommunications infrastructure in the U.S., and make it easy to both deliver images, audio and video to mobile phones, and also to receive back the same types of media from mobile users.

MMS is a great way to engage with mobile customers, sending them the images and video they crave while giving those users a channel to communicate back to the developers with text, images, video and audio.  MMS fits perfectly into the life of today’s mobile users, who are creating and sharing their own content at breakneck speeds.

What Is MMS?

MMS was created way back in April 2003 by the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) in partnership with the 3GPP, a consortium of carriers and mobile service providers. It quickly became a standard feature on virtually all the cellular phones sold in the U.S. and around the world. However, while use cases in the U.S. remained few and far between, folks in Europe, Japan and elsewhere took to the technology like fish to water. They understood that rather than being constrained to text – and a measly 160 characters of text at that – MMS messages could include audio, images and video, and had long form text content as well. This quickly meant that enterprising developers and users came up with all kinds of innovative uses.

In Japan, publishers began to deliver serialized novels in daily and weekly installments directly to mobile phones via MMS, and a phenomenon of Japanese commuters reading long form content on mobile devices while riding the subway to work was born.

In the U.K., film studios began to promote movies with short trailers sent directly to mobile phones. In France, store chains began to build mobile subscriber lists and send shopping coupons. In Belgium (and all over Europe) rail services sold tickets via the mobile web, and delivered proof of purchase via MMS to show train conductors doing ticket checks.

Here in the U.S., the carrier networks have supported peer-to-peer MMS for a long time – anyone who has sent a picture from their phone to another mobile has used MMS. But commercial use has lagged behind the technology. Mobile developers simply didn't know that available APIs from the carriers (AT&T and Verizon) or third parties enabled sending long messages and multimedia content directly to users.

In 2013, roughly a decade after MMS was born, we are finally starting to see some uptake of MMS messaging capabilities on home soil. Airlines are beginning to offer mobile ticketing with scannable ticket codes delivered via MMS, the major networks are all running mobile loyalty and fan clubs that deliver behind-the-scenes content and interviews to rabid fans, and forward-thinking marketers are even using MMS to receive user generated content like pictures and video.

The next wave of MMS use here in the U.S. will certainly start with sharing content: from user to user; from application to users; and from content providers and marketers to users. Developers will drive and shape that trend by building innovative, engaging and useful applications that connect users.

That explosion of utility might just open up the world of commerce on mobile phones: in the near future you might be able to buy BART tickets and have them delivered as MMS to your phone, or redeem MMS coupons for discounts on your next coffee purchase. You may soon be able to show a pass for club entry on your Mobile, and send in pictures of your besties dancing the night away via MMS to a picture sharing service.

One thing is certain – the mobile phone is the communications and computing device for this decade and probably the next. It's in everyone's pockets, every day. MMS has played a major part in the mobile digital lifestyle everywhere else in the developed world, and now that MMS APIs are widely available to developers, we'll finally see the U.S. catch up.

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