Google shuts down SMS Search, users express outrage

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Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has quietly terminated SMS Search, a question-and-answer service optimized for feature phone owners without data connections.

SMS Search enabled low-end device owners to text queries to a designated shortcode, receiving SMS-based search results incorporating textual information like local event listings, weather updates and currency conversions instead of Web links. The service stopped working late last week, with users who submitted queries receiving a response stating "SMS Search has been shut down. You can continue to search the Web at google.com on any device."

After multiple consumers addressed the outage on Google's Product Forums and Reddit, Google finally confirmed the SMS Search shutdown Friday. "Closing products always involves tough choices, but we do think very hard about each decision and its implications for our users," Google staffer Jessica S. writes on Google Groups. "Streamlining our services enables us to focus on creating beautiful technology that will improve people's lives."

Many users expressed frustration and disappointment over Google's decision. "Google's decision to shut down the SMS search service only serves to widen the information divide between the haves and have-nots… Please cut the crap about 'beautiful technology that will improve people's lives' when you're only talking about improving things for the techno-elite," reads one Google Groups post, while another notes "Many elderly users, Lifeline users and others have no way to search mobile google.com from any device and SMS Search was their only way to access Google search. What ever happened to 'First, do no evil?'" Google has not commented beyond the original shutdown confirmation.

Google Search for smartphones and tablets is a major mobile revenue driver: Based on figures provided in its patent and copyright infringement battle with Oracle as well as remarks from Google CEO Larry Page, insiders believe that Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS platform generates about 80 percent of Google's mobile advertising revenues, with Google paying roughly $1 billion per year to remain the default search option on devices like the iPhone and iPad, according to analyst estimates. In addition, search activity on tablet devices will generate as much as $5 billion in Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) revenues this year, according to a report issued in February by Marin Software, which provides services to help brands and agencies manage their online advertising efforts.

For more:
- read this TechCrunch article
- read this Verge article

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