Tech blog

Tech blog

Slow death of the MMS

The advent of the first colour-screen mobile phones had heralded the arrival of the multimedia messaging service (MMS), but with the spread of packet-data connectivity, and chatting software like WhatsApp, WeChat, ChatOn or the BlackBerry Messenger along with it, the service is closer to the deathly precipice of obsolescence than ever before.

The only reason the term is still in circulation is due to less tech-savvy people choosing to call videos in 3gp, low-resolution AVI or Real Media formats by that name. After all, it was in these video formats that some of the most notorious and scandalous videos of their times were spread. And after the police started calling these videos by that name, much like the way Nigerian scams got their name despite not always being perpetrated by Nigerian princes or even commoners, the masses adopted the nomenclature.

But back to the actual service, or the non-use thereof. When MMS was first introduced, it was touted by many as the make-or-break feature for mobile phones. After all, who wouldn't want to share photos of themselves or something they had seen with others? Up until then, the only way to share photographs, at least in India, was through physical photo albums, or, for the more tech-savvy, and that too after some time, fledgling social-networking sites like Orkut.

So this was the market that MMS was out to capture, and it did too, for quite some time! But the first impediment on the road to its spread was the price of sending a single MMS. Depending on the operator, it would be anything starting from Rs 5. The second was lack of content. While ringtones and other kinds of audio had begun to proliferate, cameras on phones weren't all that common, ruling out videos and photos.

By the time the camera phones hit the market, technologies like infra-red or bluetooth data transfers had become more common, eating away at whatever growth the MMS had achieved. People still preferred sending text messages via SMS, peppered with emoticons. Multimedia exchanges took place only when friends were within the bluetooth range.

And then packet data arrived, bringing with it not only access to but also the ability to share multimedia via a much-improved graphical user interface. That was probably the death knell for MMS, but definitely not the end. Like the telegraph service, the MMS is bound to stick around, like some vestigial organ in the anatomy of mobile phones, till the day manufacturers themselves decide to do away with it. And given the progress of technology, no one likes a white elephant like this service will soon turn out to be, sans all the regal aura of the original white elephants. But the common man is already bidding it adieu. So, au revoir, MMS!

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