Looking for an Alternative to Twitter – and Vodafone…

Whilst at an event over the weekend – from which I would generally have tweeted once or twice – I got the following two part message in what I regard as my personal Twitter feed to my phone:

1/2: Starting Nov 15, Vodafone UK will no longer support some Twitter SMS notifications. You will still be able to use 2-factor authentication and reset your pa
2/2: ssword over SMS.However, Tweet notifications and activity updates will cease. We are very sorry for the service disruption.

The notification appeared from a mobile number I have listed as “Twitter” in my contacts book. This makes both Twitter and Vodafone very much less useful to me – direct messages and mentions used to come direct to my phone as SMS text messages, and I used to be able to send tweets and direct messages to the same number (Docs: Twitter SMS commands). The service connected an SMS channel on my personal/private phone, with a public address/communication channel that lives on the web.

Why not use a Twitter client? A good question that deserves and answer that may sound foolish: Vodafone offers crappy coverage in the places I need it most (at home, at in-laws) where data connections are as good as useless. At home there’s wifi – and other screens running Twitter apps – elsewhere there typically isn’t. I also use my phone at events in the middle of fields, where coverage is often poor and even getting a connection can be chancy. (Client apps also draw on power – which is a factor on a weekend away at an event where there may be few recharging options; and they’re often keen to access contact book details, as well as all sorts of other permissions over your phone.)

So SMS works – it’s low power, typically on, low bandwidth, personal and public (via my Twitter ID).

But now both my phone contract and Twitter are worth very much less to me. One reason I kept my Vodafone contract was because of the Twitter connection. And one reason I stick with Twitter is the SMS route I have – I had – to it.

So now I’m looking for an alternative. To both.

I thought about rolling my own service using an SMS channel on IFTT, but I don’t think it supports/is supported by Vodafone in the UK? (Do any mobile operators support it? It so, I think I may have to change to them…)


If I do change contract though, I hope it’s easier that the last contract we tried are still trying – to kill. After several years it seems a direct debit on an old contract is still going out; after letters – and a phone call to Vodafone where they promised the direct debit was cancelled – it pops up again, paying out again, the direct debit that will never die. This week we’ll try again. Next month, if it pops up again, I guess we need to call on the ombudsman.

I guess what I’d really like is a mobile operator that offers me an SMS gateway so that I can call arbitrary webhooks in response to text messages I send, and field web requests that can then forward messages to my phone. (Support for the IFTT SMS channel would be almost as good.)

From what I know of Twitter’s origins (as twttr), the mobile SMS context was an important part of it – “I want to have a dispatch service that connects us on our phones using text” @Jack [Dorsey, Twitter founder] possibly once said (How Twitter Was Born). Text still works for me in the many places I go where wifi isn’t available and data connections are unreliable and slow, if indeed they’re available at all. (If wifi is available, I don’t need my phone contract…)

The founding story continues: I remember that @Jack’s first use case was city-related: telling people that the club he’s at is happening. If Vodafone and Twitter hadn’t stopped playing over the weekend, I’d have tweeted that I was watching the Wales Rally (WRC/FIA World Rally Championship) Rallyfest stages in North Wales at Chirk Castle on Saturday, and Kinmel Park on Sunday. As it was, I didn’t – so WRC also lost out on the deal. And I don’t have a personal tweet record of the event I was at.

If I’m going to have to make use of a web client and data connection to make use of Twitter messaging, it’s probably time to look for a service that does it better. What’s WhatsApp like in this respect?

Or if I’m going to have to make use of a web client and data connection to make use of Twitter messaging, I need to find a mobile operator that offers reliable data connections in places where I need it, because Vodafone doesn’t.

Either way, this cessation of the service has made me realise where I get most value from Twitter, and where I get most value from Vodafone, and it was in a combination of those services. With them now separated, the value of both to me are significantly reduced. Reduced to such an effect that I am looking for alternatives – to both.

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

5 thoughts on “Looking for an Alternative to Twitter – and Vodafone…”

  1. It looks as though IFFFT does support vodafone UK, at least I tried my number and it sent the activation code. Good shout on that, looks promising as I too miss the SMS notifications from Twitter and I’m stuck with vodafone.


    1. Hmm… maybe i oopsed the first time… seems you’re right, it does work:-)

      I wonder if it’s using the same “loophole” that Twitter were using and that Vodafone shut down…? (/whispers/ so be very careful who you tell about this…// ;-)

    2. Iffft works a treat. Just select a new recipe, and select twitter for the ‘if’ part of function, and Twitter for the ‘then’ part, selecting the option to specify the individual whose tweets you want to be sent. You can create as many individuals as you want as separate recipes.’

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