Being able to use Twitter via SMS is, and has always been, one of the coolest features of the service. The fact that practically anyone with a mobile phone can get started on Twitter, no matter how limited their hardware is or what phone they're using, is one of the biggest reasons that micro-blogging, and Twitter in particular, took off in the first place.
Today, the UK mobile carrier Orange has taken Tweeting via SMS to the next level - not only have they enabled shortcode Twitter SMS access on their service, they're offering a photo-sharing service via MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service), giving Orange users the chance to share photos without requiring any Twitter client at all - they can share photos on Twitter just as easily as they can send SMS tweets, and the only rates that apply are the Carrier's standard rates.
The service itself is made possible through a new online photo-sharing service Orange has created called Snapshot; it's like Twitpic, or the many other Twitter photo-sharing sites out there, except that it's for Orange users to upload photos to via MMS.
If it works out - and chances are very good that it will work out, and will see a lot of use from Orange users, it's likely to change the way that mobile carriers provide Twitter access via SMS and now MMS. The ability to share photos with the world by simply texting them to a five-digit shortcode means that we're going to see even more photos being uploaded to the micro-blogging platform - for good or for bad.
Last week we discussed the rise and role of Twitter in citizen journalism; now that Orange is offering users the ability to point, click and send photos in seconds, can we expect to see an increase in citizen journalism being carried out by Twitter users? The answer is almost certainly yes. While that might ruffle the features of some commentators (including one particular TechCrunch blogger) who believe that citizen journalism is The Great Evil, this author, for one, is glad to see it - Twitter has brought some incredible events into our lives in real-time and Orange's MMS photo sharing service promises to continue and further that trend.
Now that Orange has shaken up micro-blogging by extending the power of the simple mobile phone, can we expect to see other mobile carriers follow suit, or can we expect some larger Twitter photo-sharing sites like Twitpic to enable this kind of functionality on their sites? The answer is emphatically yes, although I wouldn't expect to see it happening right away. All eyes are going to be tuned onto Orange Snapshot, which is still officially in its beta stages; if it works out and users like it, expect to see a lot more MMS photo-sharing; if it doesn't...well, who am I kidding? Of course it's going to work out!
Orange UK users, rejoice! And while you're at it, take a photograph of yourself rejoicing and MMS it over to 86444 to share your joy with the rest of the world!