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TextMe Enables Content Sharing From Web To Mobile Via SMS

Last September, when the Indian Telecom regulator TRAI released the first version of its SMS Spam guidelines, Dayson Pais wrote for us about how the guidelines effectively made TextMe, his startup, redundant. Since then, the guidelines have been modified significantly, to enable opt-in users on the do-not-disturb directory to receive text messages, and TextMe has now been launched: the service allows users to share text and links on the web via SMS, whether through a javascript based button or a publisher integrated  sharing button, similar to those for sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, Reddit, Digg and others. We spoke with Pais on how the service works, how they plan to monetize it, how they’ve addressed the TRAI SMS Spam guidelines, integration with sharing services like AddThis, and more:

How TextMe Enables Sharing
TextMe initially only allowed publishers to integrate a button for sharing. Users click on the button, enter the mobile number they want to send the content to, and for registration, verify their own number. Pais said that they realized that people still wanted to share pages that weren’t Indian or didn’t have publisher integration, so in order to enable usage, they also added a browser extension service. The site is doing roughly around 15-20,000 times a day, according to Pais, and has integrated with around 150 publishers, including SantaBanta.com and Mumbaivotes.com. Pais claims that the service has been used over 4.5 million times by over 40,000 users.

How does TextMe plan to make money?
Pais said that their focus right now is on volumes – around a few million shares per month. They haven’t yet finalized the approach yet, but monetization will be online advertising based, with ads on the share page, perhaps in partnership with ad networks. In line with the TRAI guidelines, there will be no footer ads on the messages.

How they addressed the TRAI SMS Spam guidelines
TextMe waited it out for the final set of TRAI guidelines to come out, which allowed sending SMS to opt-in users on the DND. “When you sign up for it, you have to verify opting in, and you will be considered an opt-in customer. (This way) I’ll have proof of the date and the time that you have opted in. Every month, you will get a message telling you that you’ve opted into TextMe to receive messages. It’s a closed loop network. If you’re on the DND, you won’t get the message unless you opt-in, but if will get it if you’re not on the DND.

How They’re Dealing With Spam. What if I start messaging people through their service?
“You have to initiate an SMS, and it’s only one message a time, and you’re probably better off messaging using your phone. If you’re going to send 10 messages to annoy someone, you’ll have to do it one at a time.”

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On Usage Patterns
“People are sending local search information, and sending utility info. Recipies are being sent. Articles and jokes are big, especially through SantaBanta. People are sending wallpapers and Facebook images. They’re also sharing stock quotes on MoneyControl, even though we’re not integrated with them. Users are sending it using the browser plugin. A few people are sending from IRCTC and Cleartrip, to send PNR details. We have around 40,000 users who were registered with us between Jan and April, and we did spread this a lot on Facebook.”

Financing The Business
4.5 million messages via SMS means that each SMS will have to be paid for. So how is TextMe financing its business? “We’re personally financing this, we have an agency (Webly) running, which is a source of income. This is our first product based startup. The technology is in-house, and the design is in-house.”

Publisher Analytics
One pitch that TextMe makes to publishers is that they share analytics on sharing – top shared content by publisher, locations in India the content is being shared with, how many people are clicking through on the mobile, and the mobile traffic. “There isn’t any mobile user or number based info shared though,” Pais hastens to add.

Integration with data services like BBM and Whatsapp?
“BBM and Whatsapp don’t allow integration, but we would want to explore it. We realize a lot of people, instead of SMS, just want to send info via mail, because people receive push email on the phone. Sometimes you have a system where you have an app on your phone like Readitlater. We’re starting off with SMS, with which can reach out with many more people.”

Integration with widgets like Add This?
“There’s an Oexchange.org protocol, which is used by Add This, Share This, which aggregate sharing sites. It’s an international consortium. TextMe integrates the Oexchange protocol, and it can be one of the services in Add This and Share This. AddThis integrates many services which are country specific. We are not a part of these widgets, but once we build more credibility in terms of use cases, we will submit to Add This and Share This.”

(Updates: certain typographical errors corrected)

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