Twitter is said to be working with a startup in Singapore to offer their service offline, according to a report by Reuters. The offline access is targeted at emerging markets, where a data connection is not always available or necessary. The company, U2opia Mobile, currently works with Facebook for similar functionality.
The service offers users who enter a code to get Twitter information from nearby twitters using location sharing. It will populate the Twitter feed with popular and trending tweets from others in the area, but won’t allow for viewing of pictures, videos, or other media. More than 11 million users currently take advantage of U2opia’s service for Facebook and the expiring Google Talk.
U2opia uses Unstructured Supplementary Service Data, or USSD. That protocol is for text only, which is what makes it impossible to view pictures and video. In those areas where U2opia is utilized, 80% of people still don’t access data on their mobile phones. CEO Sumesh Menon says their work with Twitter is “hand in glove because Twitter has by design a character limit, it’s a very text-driven social network”.
U2opia’s main customer base remains outside of the US, in emerging markets like South America and Africa. They work with local carriers like Vodafone to supply the service, and get a 30-40% cut from the carrier for access to the service. For Twitter, it’s a war ro grow a service that needs attention to move forward after an IPO that valued them at $25 billion. For consumers, it’s a new way to communicate with the increasingly shrinking digital world.