Google blocks overly successful iPhone app

Looks like Google's got a taste of its own medicine, and it doesn't like it one bit. It put a stop to Infinite SMS, a wildly popular, third-party 99-cent iPhone application that used Google's free Gmail Labs SMS service to provide free texts to users. Google put the block on after it decided it just couldn't foot the bill for all those texts anymore. Wow, an app maker profiting from a service provider's underlying infrastructure, and the service provider blocking the app. Sounds familiar.

Just like the carriers trying to throttle back services that bog down their networks, Google's blocked not only Inner Fence's Infinite SMS but any other application that used Google's external XMPP API to access the free Gmail Lab-based SMS service. According to Inner Fence's statement, it all comes down to dollars and cents:

Google has claimed no grievance with Infinite SMS other than its success. Their given reason for the block isn’t abuse or wrongdoing; it’s that we brought too many users (and thus too much cost) to an experimental service. We acted in good faith, accessing a feature publicly announced by Google over open protocols they made available. Other non-Google apps have been able to access the SMS feature since its launch. To us, this was no different from accessing Gmail’s near limitless storage over the open IMAP protocol. We never could have guessed that the two of us would write an app too big for Google.

Google does however plan to keep the service available for its own Google Talk customers, which apparently is a more workable number. But where does that leave app developers like Inner Fence? Apple's AppStore doesn't allow refunds, so any users who shelled out 99 cents for Infinite SMS are out of luck. As Inner Fence says:

Apple does not give app developers any way to perform refunds. Hopefully, at 99¢ people will feel like our app paid for itself after only a few messages.

Hopefully. But perhaps Inner Fence needs to start a movement calling for iPhone app neutrality?

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