Why txt is gr8

This morning’s Observer column.

Here’s a question: what’s bigger and far more important than Facebook? Hint: it’s very low-tech and doesn’t need a smartphone or even an internet connection. And this year marks its 20th birthday, which means that in internet time it’s 140 years old. Oh, and it doesn’t involve LOLcats either.

Got it yet? It’s SMS – text messaging to you and me. Or txt msng, if you prefer. Two-thirds of the world’s population – that’s over 4 billion people – have access to it because that’s the number of people who have mobile phones, and even the cheapest, clunkiest handset can send SMS messages. It’s had a much bigger impact on people’s lives than anything dreamed up in Silicon Valley.

Interestingly, Silicon Valley played almost no role in it. SMS emerged on our side of the Atlantic and was the brainchild of the kind of European intergovernmental initiative that drives Ukip nuts…