Wanted: open APIs for MMS gateways

Our users’ mode of digital storytelling has so far turned out to be via MMS, even though we didn’t start with that assumption. But based on that, much of our development is now finding workarounds to do things with mms that aren’t based on the phone service providers’ narrow imaginations about the possible use cases. For example, we have to strip out all kinds of junk that the service providers add to mms in order to publish them as stories on our site. And we are trying to figure out the best way to send mms to phones, but we are pretty much limited to either 1. using the providers’ email to mms gateways, which don’t allow very much control for how the messages actually get to the phones (for example, how to send a multislide mms with 5 pictures, 5 titles, and 5 associated audio files via email using the gateways?) Option 2 is using a computer to phone bridge and actually sending the mms from the phone, which might be better but probably won’t scale very well.

Lets look at the options providers have for composing and sending mms. For example Verizon says:

There are six ways for a consumer to send an MMS message:

* Verizon Wireless phone to any Verizon Wireless phone

* Verizon Wireless phone to wireless phones from other select service providers view provider list

* Phone to any valid E-Mail Address

* E-Mail to Phone using Mobile Number @vzwpix.com

* Phone to the on-line multimedia library – Picture & Video Messaging portal

* On-line multimedia composer (Picture & Video Messaging portal) to any Verizon Wireless phone

(This is from http://www.vzwdevelopers.com/aims/public/MmsLanding.jsp. You can see the last option, the online mms composer, here: http://picture.vzw.com/pub/composer/guestCreate.do?sortField=-creationDate&category=Free+Media%2CImages.)

Maybe we can hack the ‘multimedia composer’ functions and use them to send mms directly from our site. But what we REALLY want is a way to write a Drupal module that can interact directly with Verizon’s mms gateway!

In effect, what we want is to build our own ‘multimedia composer’ that can send mms, but via any provider. What we need is open APIs for all the providers’ MMS gateways.

This would be great for their business anyway! It looks like they are hoping to make customers buy images and sounds via their own ‘composer’ portal, but I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t benefit more just by sticking to their main business model – selling phone service – and letting hundreds of developers build ‘mms composer’ portals and applications. It would increase the volume of mms and the proportion of customers who pay for mms packages and plans. Maybe these open APIs already exist? Maybe no one ever asked for them? Anyway, would love to hear some thoughts and comments on this possibiliy.

3 thoughts on “Wanted: open APIs for MMS gateways

  1. Thanks Erik! Yeah, we are looking at Mbuni. We also thought it would be interesting to build a web application that provides a simple interface for people to maintain an ongoing list of phone provider sms and mms gateways around the world. This list would be stored in a database and could be called with some open APIs so that people building applications that need to send and receive sms and mms via those gateways would easily be able to use the up-to-date list.

    http://dev.vozmob.net/issues/225

  2. The issue with the carriers is that to integrate with their MMS gateways you have to go through a third party provider such as Sybase, OpenMarket, mBlox, etc. You have to pay a monthly fee for a short code as well as per message messaging fees. The only real way around that is to send from/to the phone number as an email address. Results across the carriers vary widely with this approach and there ends up having to be a lot of costly testing via a service such as Device Anywhere to check results on handsets.

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