Dave Michels
Dave Michels is a Principal Analyst at TalkingPointz. His unique perspective on unified communications comes from a career involving telecommunications...
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Dave Michels | October 19, 2012 |


Twilio Expands Features and Global Reach

Twilio Expands Features and Global Reach At TwilioCon, the company provided some stats that confirm its model of cloud-based communication APIs resonates with developers.

At TwilioCon, the company provided some stats that confirm its model of cloud-based communication APIs resonates with developers.

Twilio is growing. The company provided some stats that confirm its model of cloud-based communication APIs resonates with developers. The forum was TwilioCon in San Francisco, which is the company's event for developer interaction and inspiration.

In his keynote, CEO Jeff Lawson said Twilio's community of active developers now numbers 150,000, and the last 50,000 came in just four months. He added that Twilio applications have interacted with 150 million phone numbers, recorded over 100 million minutes of audio, and in 2012 averaged 1.5 million calls per day.

Jeff's keynote had two major themes: software is the key to solving problems, and customer communications are increasingly international. Through the course of his presentation, he dropped seven major announcements.

Jeff greeted the room full of developers with the statement: "We are software people," and referred to Marc Andreessen's quote that software is eating the world. Jeff said, "Every day more and more problems are in the domain of software, allowing us to solve problems." For example, Uber, a Twilio customer, is using software to disrupt transportation-for-hire.

Jeff referred to premises-based solutions as "monolithic packages that do what they do," which is rarely what software people need. He compared using the blunt APIs of premises equipment to painting the Mona Lisa with a roller brush. The role of software people has never been more important, according to Jeff, because they "create experiences, and experiences are all that matter."

Within his presentation, Jeff took a moment to highlight what his firm calls "Doers." Throughout the hall were large banners celebrating the "Doers" that Twilio recently recognized for innovative approaches to old problems.

Tiago Paiva, a developer, was recognized for creating Talkdesk, a browser-based call center solution that integrates with Salesforce, Highrise, ZenDesk, and Talkdesk is in use at MinuteLabs, VIP Realtors, and Chevrolet.

Another Doer was Kunal Batra, whose company, General Machines, is disrupting the TTY device space with a new service called Deaftel. The service converts speech to text, and is now available as an iPhone app. A related success story is RedBeacon, which uses Twilio's SMS to match hardware consumers to contractors (that is, hardware for home improvement, not computer hardware). The company was recently acquired by Home Depot.

There are plenty of consumer oriented examples, but Twilio is also penetrating corporate applications as well, though often as part of a third-party solution. Sam Boonin, VP of customer engagement at Zendesk, explained that using Twilio to create Zendesk Voice was well received by its customers. He said, "If you put it out there and make it simple, people will adopt it."

Zendesk provides customer support software as a service, and expanded into voice services by enabling its customers to provision new support telephone numbers "in three clicks." Soon after launch, the company had sign-ups in 65 countries, 1,700 accounts, and processed over 20,000 hours of live calls.

Twilio continues to expand its channels to reach more developers. At the event, the company announced a new partner program aimed at ISVs and system integrators, effectively a new app exchange environment to connect market demand with Twilio partners. Twilio promises sales, marketing, and technical support through the program.

Last May Twilio announced a partnership with Microsoft Azure. At Twiliocon, Scott Guthrie, a Corporate VP at Microsoft, demonstrated how Azure developers could access Twilio through Azure's developer portal, which includes sample scripts and SDKs. Scott and Jeff demonstrated how an application similar to Evernote that was created and stored in the Azure cloud could utilize the Twilio and iOS SDK to enable collaboration. Both clients (web and iPhone) could modify the list using web or SMS for updates and to mark tasks as completed.

For the enterprise, Twilio is now supporting inbound SIP. Not a lot of information can be passed with traditional 10-digit PSTN dialing, but Twilio's new SIP implementation supports metadata for deep integration of applications. Also, presence was announced last year at the TwilioCon event; this week, Lawson announced 100 million hours of presence detection in its first year.

Regarding its SMS service, the company is expanding support to an additional 40 countries, and the firm now operates six global points of presence to reduce latency for local calls in some foreign locations. Lawson stressed the difficulty in making SMS and other features work across 1,300 carriers in 180 countries. He claims the solution can seamlessly support text messages in native Chinese, Arabic and even Emoji.

Twilio has made a lot of progress over the past year. More importantly, its approach of combining APIs and carrier services within a single cloud offering appears to make sense. The carrier elements offer unique benefits of premises based solutions (such as SMS), and the APIs offer unique benefits over carrier solutions, as they can drive transactions and deep integration with other applications.

Announcement Summary:

* New Partner Program: Aimed at System Integrators and ISVs. Is not a reseller arrangement, but more of an exchange community to help match market needs with potential suppliers.

* Twilio now supports WebRTC: Currently in beta form, it auto detects and selects the best stack in browser.

* SIP Support: Twilio now supports inbound SIP calls including the ability to pass headers (context) to SIP endpoints for deeper integration.

* International expansion of Twilio API in 20 new countries and SMS in 40 new countries. Also now operating six global points of presence on six continents to better accommodate local traffic in distant locations.

* Expanded support offerings: Includes telephone, 7x24, and SLA-backed premium support options.

* New Test Credentials to simplify and improve application testing.

* Improvements to API regarding cost management: The API now offers real time usage counters and improved threshold management.

Dave Michels is a contributing editor and independent analyst at


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