8sms: The end of the road?

It is with a sad and heavy heart that I write this. Unfortunately, 8sms is at a crossroads and, indeed, this may be the end of the road of 8sms as you know it.

Pending a dramatic change of fortune or some unforeseen event, my ongoing development of 8sms is financially unsustainable and needs to be reconsidered.

Some historical background

(Or you can skip to the next part)

I conceived of writing 8sms at a time when fees were still charged for sms messages. The idea was to undercut the carriers by using sms providers to deliver messages over the Internet at much lower cost to the user.

Websites already exist which allows users to send sms messages at much lower cost than the fees charged by the carriers. However, it was disruptive and inconvenient to have to go to a website to send messages. There was a lot of friction involved.

The idea of 8sms was to bring the "web sms" interface onto the phone. Users could send cheap messages, carried over the Internet (ie. "over the top"), through an extra tap or two. Integration into the messaging app on the phone made "web sms" much more accessible and a much more pleasant experience (and this has been confirmed when released into 8sms).

Unfortunately, by the time "web sms" was launched, the messaging market had moved on. A couple of weeks after going live, it was evident that no one was really interested in paying for cheap sms.

My monetisation strategy for 8sms had, ever since the beginning, always been "web sms". If this happened five years earlier, I'm sure I would have made a lot of money. Unfortunately, it has flopped, and flopped badly.

The only other potentially viable monetisation of 8sms is advertising. However, it's not something I really want to subject my users to.

Hence, with no monetisation, I can't really afford to continue developing 8sms.

I've spent most of the last 12 ish months working on 8sms (at about 90% full time), and there are a lot (and I mean, really, a lot) of bug fixes to make it the most robust and stable "stock" messaging app on Android. I do admit it can be made to look nicer and more up-to-date with the latest Android trends (I have been a bit biased in favour of technical capabilities rather than appearance), but it is, without doubt, the "stock" messaging app with the largest following.

The end of the road?

Whilst I enjoy working on 8sms and making it even better, unfortunately, if it is not economically sustainable, it's not viable to continue.

So, where to from here?

I see some possibilities. An acquisition ...

  • Sell 8sms to a buyer (whether the buyer will continue maintaining 8sms or chooses to add advertising is unknown),
  • Be "acqui-hired" by a buyer who then employs me to continue working on 8sms,
  • Be "acqui-hired" by Google who then employs me to fix the many mms-related issues in Google Hangouts.

or something more dramatic ...

  • Add advertising to 8sms (which I have been reluctant to do),
  • "Shut down" 8sms: Leave it available on Google Play, but stop future development and support.

I am one of those people who dislikes advertising, so I have resisted placing advertisements into 8sms so far. However, it is preferable if I don't have to "shut down" 8sms.

Pending a friendly acquisition, something dramatic may have to happen. Since events are not mine to control, let's see what the next few weeks have in store.

8sms is up for sale

With this post, I am putting up the "For Sale" sign for 8sms.

8sms is the leading "stock" messaging app (not counting Google Hangouts).

As of writing, there are 105,000 "current" installs from 350,000 "total" installs. There have been times where 8sms was growing at the equivalent of 100 times a year.

In recent months, this has slowed because I have been devoting time to "web sms" and other things, and hence, 8sms has lost some momentum. I wasn't concerned about this as I was focused on other things, and indeed, if 8sms continued with the same momentum, I would be spending more time than I would like just keeping up with providing support.

If I were to continue developing 8sms and refocus, I think growth of 10 times a year is a reasonable expectation.

Adding advertising to 8sms is something I have resisted so I have no relevant metrics (ie. CPM). However, keep in mind that messaging is an app which users spend a lot of time in.

The source code of 8sms is licensed under the Apache License but it has not been published. The purchaser may choose to redistribute the source code, or not, as they see fit.

There are many many bugfixes and enhancements in 8sms which are not freely available anywhere else, such as:

  • Most stable and robust "out of the box" mms support.
  • MMS over wifi (Sprint), MMS over wifi calling (T-Mobile US).
  • VCard support.
  • A hardware abstraction layer for per-ROM specific features:
    • Contact alert tones (Samsung)
    • "Unread messages counter" badge (Samsung)
    • System blacklist (Cyanogenmod)
    • Dual sim framework (never instantiated for a specific ROM)
  • Inline display of mms slideshows.
  • Multi-category emoji support (for Android Jelly Bean).
  • Android Wear quick reply.
  • Lots and lots of bugfixes and numerous small enhancements.

If anyone is interested in purchasing 8sms, please convey your expression of interest in email.

Thank you for reading, and thank you to all the users of 8sms for their support so far. It has been a wonderful (though busy) experience.

Thank you,
Beng Tan

8sms developer

Discussion available at http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2398767&page=117#post55...