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Tuesday, December 16th, 2003

Time Event
l33tspeak goes mainstream
I just looked over at the little pile of (postal) mail I picked up last night. Sitting on top was some promotional junk from AT&T Wireless. Printed on the outside: "Inside: texting tips 4 U."

Sure enough, inside there were examples like "CAN U', "C U L8R", "2NITE", and so on. Explanatory text says:
Tip: Keep messages short by using text abbreviations. A common example is "C U" for "See you!"
It's true, the annoying phonetic single-letter spelling that has been cultivated in the young computer-using population over the last decade or so, also eagerly adopted by so many non-native english speakers around the world, has now gone mainstream. L33tspeak is now being actively promoted by one of the largest telecommunications marketers out there.

I feel like I'm reading an ad for dating.slashdot.com.

Maybe AT&T is doing this because they've noticed people are sending text messages that are longer than they need to be. Shorter messages mean less network usage means more profit (text messages are either $0.10 each or "included with your plan"). I'm almost certain it doesn't cost ten cents to move less than a thousand bits of information around. Especially when you compare that to a phone call, which is not only higher bandwith but the bits need to move in some semblance of real time. Like the small print says, "There is no guarantee of actual delivery or delivery within a specific period of time."

Perhaps - and this is a harrowing thought - there are now young marketing exectives inside AT&T who were brought up with this sort of monophonetic communication style, and they thought it might be a good idea to try to promote it among the rest of the unsuspecting population.

In any case, such an abbreviated conversation style is annoying. I know I'm not alone.

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