The Death Of The Short Code – Are We On The Verge Of Reviving The “Long Code?”

Group Texting, a company that does exactly what its name implies, published an interesting blog post recently entitled “The Death of the Short Code” in which it details …

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Group Texting, a company that does exactly what its name implies, published an interesting blog post recently entitled “The Death of the Short Code” in which it details the many disadvantages of short codes and how “long codes” — or so-called “virtual phone numbers” — overcome many of the barriers short codes present.

“The major wireless carriers came together in 2003 to create short codes to allow marketers to easily communicate with consumers. Since then text messaging has exploded in popularity. Short codes haven’t seen growth to match. Why? A long, opaque and expensive setup process prevents all but the largest brands from marketing to their customers with text messages,” the company explained in its post.  “Enter the long code: instant setup, affordable transparent pricing, and no one standing between your company and your customers. Short codes were supposed to bring mobile marketing to the masses. Long codes, virtual mobile phone numbers that can send and receive text messages stand ready to finally fulfill that promise.”

Put simply, “long codes” are basic ten-digit phone numbers that are connected to messaging gateways to send and receive text messages exactly the same way short codes do — without the long approval and provisioning processes.  The company notes that people who use VoIP providers like Google Voice can’t access short codes because of the underlying infrastructure, which isn’t the case with long codes, for example.  As the company puts it: “long codes just work.”

Another large barrier presented by short codes is the inherent vulnerability of being at the whims of the carriers.  We’ve covered numerous instances of carriers shutting down SMS campaigns or blocking short codes because they don’t agree with the content or the brands behind it.  Long codes, the company suggests, come with none of these roadblocks and offer numerous advantages such as:

  • Instant setup: Get going in less than 24 hours instead of 8 to 12 weeks.
  • Cut out the middlemen and save money: No aggregator fees and contracts, and no passed along short code leasing costs mean your campaign can be run at a fraction of the price of a short code campaign.
  • The widest coverage: If a customer can send and receive text messages you can reach them with a long code.
  • The fastest messaging throughput available. Send 5 messages/second with a single long code. Pool multiple long codes for unlimited throughput.

“Do you need to get going tomorrow, not twelve weeks from now? Do you have the patience to work through program briefs, reams of carrier regulations, and constantly changing MMA guidelines? Do you have $12,000 to spend over the next year? These are deal breakers for 99% of the businesses in America,” the company concludes in its post.  “The long code, a solution that has been with us since the beginning, is poised to kill the short code.”

What do you think?  Are you a marketer that’s tired of the short code processes?  Do you think long codes are the future of text-based mobile marketing?  Do you think short codes will ever die off?  Let us know your experiences and opinions…

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  1.    Reply

    Short codes are the mack truck of communications for those who require dumping pallets of messages to the masses. Long Codes are the pick up truck for consumer to consumer or consumer to business interaction applications that drive al revenues for small business. We have seen acceptable adoption skyrocket this year to 4x last years growth. This would not matter unless I said we have been in the voice world for 10+ years and at the beginning of 2012 our messaging exceeded our voice volumes and revenues. We embrace both carriers and application companies seeking the right intelligence to deploy a commercial grade solution with confidence and success! look me up anywhere…Noah Rafalko TSG Global

  2.    Reply

    Each has their place. Our company currently uses short codes for our clients broadcasting needs. However, we are beginning to see the need of individual texting for appointment reminders and such. Long codes definitely seem to be the way to go on this one.

  3.    Reply

    […] in the mobile marketing industry about long codes, some are even questioning if these will be the death of short codes. I’m still bearish on long codes as the carriers have yet to come out publicly and give their […]

  4.    Reply

    […] in the mobile marketing industry about long codes, some are even questioning if these will be the death of short codes. I’m still bearish on long codes as the carriers have yet to come out publicly and give their […]

  5.    Reply

    […] in the mobile marketing industry about long codes, some are even questioning if these will be the death of short codes. I’m still bearish on long codes as the carriers have yet to come out publicly and give their […]

  6.    Reply

    […] in the mobile marketing industry about long codes, some are even questioning if these will be the death of short codes. I’m still bearish on long codes as the carriers have yet to come out publicly and give their […]

  7.    Reply

    […] in the mobile marketing industry about long codes, some are even questioning if these will be the death of short codes. I’m still bearish on long codes as the carriers have yet to come out publicly and give their […]

  8.    Reply

    Granted the advantages and disadvantages of long and short codes, are there any legal issues as regards their use globally? Is the use of long codes in Asia, for instance, perfectly legal?

    Where can we verify such information? Hope to get leads from any of you. Thanks!

  9.    Reply

    Don't forget to use a QR Code for either long or short. Smart phones have scanners and the number of users is growing.
    Point, scan, text, enter, done!

  10.    Reply

    Business case… It's going to be different for each company based on needs. We supply both long and short codes and would never dream of dropping one or the other. Long codes should be used for communication purposes only, while shortcodes are meant for mass delivery of notifications, coupons etc. Anyone who is using long codes for marketing is doing everyone in the industry a dis service.

  11.    Reply

    I don't normally participate in blogs, and Im not really sure how I got here. Blame it on StumbleUpon. But the title to this blog caught me by surprise, and literally caused me to fall out of my seat with laughter. A couple of weeks ago, I had never given short-codes a thought, much less knew that long-codes existed. Then Im reminded of the Amber-Alert System, and shows like American Idol, or Dance with Stars etc. who use a short-code/long-code system for voting Yes, or No to rate their choice for contestants. Thats the extent of my knowledge for short/long codes.

    So you ask.., well why are here?. As I said, the title, "The Death Of The Short Code – Are We On The Verge Of Reviving The “Long Code?”. Im here to expose a company that I gather has not been heard of as of this particular blog, that is currently being recognized as being the Game Changer in the Short Code Mobile Media Market for 2011, and completely defies the title to this blog.
    Ladies and gentlemen.., may I introduce to you… drum roll……………….. IZIGG 90210.

    Unless you know something a whole lot of other people dont know Alex. This Mobile Media Branding platform, in my opinion, will be bigger than eBay, Google, and Facebook, all in one. Therefore, not only a Revival of the short code system, (in regard to your blog title). But rather a Mobile Media Revolution, utilizing the ever most well branded short code 90210 from the git-go, EVER!!
    Brian Underwood, founder of IZIGG 90210.., Genius! 2011Game Changer!

  12.    Reply

    Alex, you're right that connecting brand names to the sms system is where were all going. Long codes and short codes will slowly fade. As far as the DJ and radio system, they are branding the radio station which the name is unique in itself, WKRP, KROQ, etc. this is used and most likely remembered by consumers or listeners in this case. Like having a unique business name is required, just as long as you're not in the same market, you've already established branding rights to your business name/keyword for sms ads and services. This is the future. With GPS , you can probably connect to any franchise restaurant closest to your location, Pizza Hut, Mickey Dee's, etc.. This is great for business.

  13.    Reply

    Hi Guest.

    No… I am not sure if there is a MamasPizza….LOL. I think you are right about using the long code would be a lot easier for people to remember. They are trained that to contact someone you need a 10 digit phone number.

    But, people are people, They look for ways to memorize numbers, so memorizing a long code would be the same. I think that you if you were driving and saw Pappas Pizza ( switching it up) , and were wondering what specials they had. Would you prefer to call 411 to get the long code, or simply shoot "Specials" or "Menu" to PappasPizza.

    I just think it is a more natural way. It is no different than domain names. Domain names are usually resolved on a nameserver that has an IP address. We don't memorize the IP address, we simply input the webaddress… so why not ans SMSAddress.

    Thank again

  14.    Reply

    @ Guest . If you are looking to interact with a DJ or a person, you more than likely will have their phone number and thereby the ability to text to back and forth. I am speaking from a marketing standpoint. If a DJ is marketing himself and his services, then he is probably " DJ Something or Another" – this would be his brand. He could establish a brand that is resolved through servers and the messages thereby directed to him or her.

    For a Company like McDonalds or Alberstson, or Mama's Pizza down the street. If they are using SMS to reach their customers, then it would be easier to text " Specials" to " MamasPizza" then using a short code like 45667. The problem is – no correlation with a short or long code. I use SMS gateways now, and still have trouble remember our own short codes.

    1.    Reply

      Alex, I didn't mean a DJ you invite to a party, but a DJ at a radio station. In the short code world, the DJ or radio host if you prefer, tells me to call 800-555-1059 to be 7th caller or text a keyword to 45687 to be the 7th texter. Wouldn't it be easier to just say, call or text 800-555-1059 and we'll pick the 7th person to call or text us.
      I agree with you that there is no natural correlation between 45667 and Mama's Pizza, although if Mama's Pizza can get the phone number 626-277-4992 (this is MAMASPIZZA on the phone) then there is a natural correlation. Did you set me up to write that MAMASPIZZA is 626-277-4992? Nice job if that was your intent. But I get your point that this usually won't work.

  15.    Reply

    Long codes and short codes both have a similar challenge that needs to be resolved – Branding. There is no relevancy or correlation between short codes and a company brand. I think the future both short codes and long codes will go away as we find a way to incorporate brand names into a the SMS systems.

    1.    Reply

      Alex, can you explain what you mean by "as we find a way to incorporate brand names into a the SMS systems"?
      And if I want to interact with a DJ at a radio station, do I need a number that is associated to the station's brand? Or do I just need a phone number?

  16.    Reply

    It's about time people realised that! In Australia most of our Short Codes are 8 digits long…long codes are only 2 digits more and work across any network at a standard SMS rate.

  17.    Reply

    have you guys heard about GO800, you text a brand, company, business name to GO800 and within seconds you will get a call back from that particular business company. Try text Hello and see what happens, it's free!

    1.    Reply

      Obet, what does GO800 have to do with this blog post?

  18.    Reply

    Hi Guys! I'm in mobile marketing and disagree with the long-code vs. short-code thing. First of all, there are two types of codes, dedicated and shared. A dedicated code is purchased by a company and yes, there are long (several weeks) provisioning times. However, on a shared short code (a code that is shared by many companies) a campaign or program can be up and running instantly! Also, the fact that long-codes allow the sending of texts without the "fear" of getting shut down is just not so. In order for a text to be delivered to a mobile phone, it HAS to go through a carrier (ie. AT&T). Maybe because the sending of messages through a long-code texting service has been low volume up to this point there has not been any issues, but come on people. We live in America. Privacy is protected and coveted! If a short code gets shut down by a carrier it's because it was abused by the sending company. Inappropriate texts or sending unsolicited texts will get a short-code shut down. I believe the second the long-code volume becomes significant enough (enough people complain about receiving unsolicited texts) these companies facilitating this will get their services shut down. To think that SMS will go the way of spam email and carriers will allow that is crazy. I won't allow it. Will you. Think about it . . . would you be happy to receive 100 advertisements via text sent to your phone without your permission? Long-codes are provided by us "middle-men" as well and work just as efficiently as short codes. but ONLY through our regulated system. Push advertising pisses people off. Pull advertising is where it's at. Cheers!

    1.    Reply

      Christopher, you make an excellent point about permissions. I believe the short code ecosystem has had its (level of) success, because there is an ecosystem and a set of shared rules. For long numbers to succeed, they must also have a set of shared rules.
      However, we all know that rules are rules, what really matters are behaviors. There have been abusers of the short code rules and there are still abusers of the rules in the market. The MMA Best Practices, rules actually, are now 144 pages, and that complexity invites certain behaviors
      I agree that the long number ecosystem must adhere to the principles of a Code of Conduct, such as, if it is going to achieve its (level of) success.
      Yes, the carriers may try and harm a long code ecosystem, but what is the basis in law for such behavior. Can they apply the same arguements about short codes to long numbers?

      We need a forum in our industry to discuss this? Do you think we have one? MMA? Will they allow a rational discussion about short codes and long numbers.

  19.    Reply

    I am with you guys, I call BS. Shortcodes serve a purpose. Plus being on a shared shortcode does make it affordable to many companies. That s why there are providers like my company. The only advantage I can see besides the short setup is that consumers understand what a long code is. Most don't understand the short code yet but that will change as exposure increases.

    1.    Reply

      Most don't understand what a short code is? Really. They have been around since 2003. 4INFO, GOOGLE, CHACHA, and hundreds, probably thousands, more. Many many more know about short codes than long numbers. That is the challenge for long number text messaging.
      And I am not thrilled with name "long codes" or "long numbers." Virtual mobile numbers sounds cooler, but that is a long name (note the negative connotation of long).

  20.    Reply

    agree with Dan. Anything with medium traffic or above needs a short code. The agregators do actually do things! Plus response on long numbers is poor compared with short codes. Lose approx 30% of traffic on a call to action

    1.    Reply

      Eddy, how did you determine that lose approx 30% of traffic on call to action? I can't share the client name, but I was involved in keyword to shared short code for trivia at high school football games, we saw error rate (misspelled or missing keyword) of about 45%. We couldn't do dedicated short code because that would be way to expensive. And we didn't ask carriers for approval of this quiz, as again the campaign never would have happened.
      I don't believe long numbers will kill short codes, that's crazy talk, but don't they have a place.

  21.    Reply

    Well, with short code we had even 200 sms/second rate, while a long code, even it is connected to an SMS gateway, does not provide same reliability as a short code with direct access to SMSC. If you pool long codes you solve somehow the send rate which is working on push campaigns, for pull campaigns does not work this way.
    We're testing long codes for about 10 years and they work only for small traffic campaigns, for large traffic campaign short code is the only option.

    1.    Reply

      Is there any way we can increase the pull capability on long code, like millions of SMS coming on the long code and without delay we can receive them.

    2.    Reply

      Dan, and what did you pay aggregator for monthly service fee to get 200 sms/second. I pay mine $1500 a month and am allocated 10sms/sec.
      You are right that long number could never get inbound rate of a short code, so no interactive TV campaigns that generate thousands of votes.
      You say that "for large traffic campaign short code is the only option," so how do you define large?

      1.    Reply

        Jonathon, working through our aggregator we get between 200 and 300 sms/s and we are only at $500 a month plus usage. Sending directly to the aggregator via smpp greatly increases your delivery speeds. I definitely recommend doing research before signing up with any aggregator.

  22.    Reply

    You can get an SMS number through, they are free for development and integrate easily into your existing web application.

  23.    Reply

    Where can people get long codes? I know where to get short codes, but where do you get a long code?

    1.    Reply

      companies like mission mobile sell them

  24.    Reply

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