SMS Gateway: Google Voice

This gateway is at end of life-cycle. It was a pretty good solution when it was originally developed in 2009, but that was before there were affordable, reliable virtual SMS options with robust APIs. This gateway does not work very well for new users, and new ones cannot be added in the admin site. Already-installed Google Voice SMS gateways are still available.

Please consider switching to our current SMS gateway, which is very affordable, fast, and reliable. You can try it out for free, just email us at Your Google Voice SMS can be forwarded to your new SMS number so that your patrons can continue to use the same number as always to contact you. This forwarding is nearly instantaneous and works very reliably.

If you need a free Google Voice SMS to LibraryH3lp chat alternative, you might experiment with GVMax. GVMax is not a LibraryH3lp component, but you might be able to use it in conjunction with a LibraryH3lp Google Talk gateway (Google Talk LibraryH3lp gateways work fine). Check out this fabulous tutorial on GVMax.

Google Voice SMS by itself works fine and combined with e-mail alerts for new messages, it remains a good option for many users.

Special Google Voice SMS Gateway Rules

  • The patron's initial message may take up to five minutes to arrive because the gateway polls for new messages every five minutes. This is a maximum; think of it as a traffic light. Once a conversation is underway, messages speed up.
  • The gateway will not send repeat identical messages from the same phone number. Make sure your test messages are unique, or delete old messages from inside Google Voice (through the web browser). The gateways uses the combination of phone number and message to determine whether or not a message needs to be delivered.
  • It is a good idea to regularly delete messages from the Google Voice SMS inbox (note: delete from the SMS label, not the regular inbox). Once a week is probably fine for most services.
  • Messages from phone numbers that have been assigned contact information within Google Voice will not be sent. The gateway works on screen scraping, and this changes the underlying XML significantly. Don't assign contact information to any numbers you want to work with your gateway.
  • Offline messages (those sent by patrons when your service is offline) will not be delivered to you via chat reliably. It is a good practice to routinely check your Google Voice account manually at the start of each day's service hours and reply to any messages that have arrived since you were last available.

Text messages sent to your GV number will arrive as regular LibraryH3lp chats. If you were offline when the message came in, you'll get it the next time that queue comes online. You reply from within your chat client, and these messages can be transferred just like any other chat in LibraryH3lp. If you're using our webchat client, LibraryH3lp will detect that your patron is coming in on a phone number, and you'll get a character countdown to assist your staff with making shorter replies, like this:

webchat character countdown for phone number

You won't get this countdown by default in other clients, but there are still things you can do. You can train staff to watch for a special queue name for text messages. There is a character count plugin for Pidgin that may be helpful here.

We're trying, but... (disclaimers)

Google does not currently provide an official public API for Google Voice. Thus, this gateway works through screen scraping and polling, just like the other Google Voice applications coming out now. This means that if Google changes the code in the Google Voice SMS display area, it may break the gateway until we can account for the change. It also means that Google may throttle traffic if it detects some magical and unknown level of activity; the gateway application already tries to account for this, but further adjustments may be needed. Lastly, so far, Google has not shown signs of shutting down Voice applications, so we are optimistic, but we can't guarantee this will always be the case.

The Twilio-backed SMS gateway is more robust. It is designed for developers to use for integrating SMS into their own applications, and it has solid, robust public APIs. It is not free, but it is extremely affordable. You can also forward Google Voice SMS to your Twilio number and get near-instant message delivery, and your patrons won't even need to change the number they text.

If you use the Google Voice SMS gateway and advertise the phone number to your patrons, and then we have a worst-case scenario where the gateway will no longer work at all, there are a couple of options. First, of course, you can monitor your Google Voice account directly and/or rely on email alerts about new messages. Second, you can forward SMS's for your Google Voice number to another phone, such as a Twilio number.

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