Google kills free text message iPhone app

Infinite SMS, an iPhone app that allowed free text messages through an experimental open Google protocol, has been shut down.

Google debuted the SMS in Chat lab at the very end of 2008, which allowed Google Talk users to send messages to mobile phones from their instant messaging window.

Just two months later, Seattle startup Innerfence released an iPhone application called "Infinite SMS" which utilized this Google Talk feature to let users send free text messages from their phones. The 99¢ app quickly became a top download, where it remained for a week and a half, then Google had to put an end to the party.

Google today issued this statement: "Infinite SMS is a third party app that has been using Google technology to provide free SMS for users, while we were paying for the cost of the text messages. While Google is supportive of third party apps, we've decided we can't support this particular usage of our system at this time. SMS chat is still just an experiment in the early testing stages in Gmail Labs. We're blocking all external XMPP clients from sending SMS; we're not singling out Inner Fence."

The Innerfence team (just two people) said that users should expect the service to go offline today. "Google has claimed no grievance with Infinite SMS other than its success. Their given reason for the block isn't abuse or wrongdoing; it's that we brought too many users (and thus too much cost) to an experimental service. We acted in good faith, accessing a feature publicly announced by Google over open protocols they made available. Other non-Google apps have been able to access the SMS feature since its launch. To us, this was no different from accessing Gmail's near limitless storage over the open IMAP protocol. We never could have guessed that the two of us would write an app too big for Google."

There's simply too much money involved (both expense and benefit) in texting to let something like that slide.

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