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Signaling a Single Developer Platform for Communications

As UC providers shift their focus toward software and applications, developers are becoming an increasingly vital part of the enterprise communications ecosystem. While industry giant Cisco is just now making a stronger developer play with its recently announced acquisition of cloud API platform provider Tropo, Twilio's focus has been on developers from the start. As vice president of product marketing Manav Khurana told me in a recent briefing, Twilio likes to believe that its founding created a paradigm shift in the way we look at communications altogether.

"Instead of using siloed communications infrastructure that doesn't talk to business applications, we've made communications in building blocks so that it can be built into software applications," Khurana said. "That was the new thing that Twilio enabled, and that's why [approximately 700,000] developers and businesses use Twilio instead of the status quo of communications infrastructure -- which I think is the major shift that Twilio is driving."

From the get-go, Twilio has been striving to become the single developer platform for communications. At its Signal conference taking place this week in San Francisco, the company announced eight new products and capabilities aimed at taking it further toward that goal and reinforcing a number of trends taking place in enterprise communications.

Perhaps the biggest announcement of the group is the availability of Twilio IP Messaging, which allows developers to embed multiparty chat/messaging interactions directly into an application. This addition expands Twilio's suite of real-time communications beyond the SMS text APIs for which it initially became known. The IP Messaging service supports message synchronization so that users can access chat history and continue conversations from different devices, and also includes the ability to add other chat functionality such as message read status, typing indicator, topic search and mobile push notifications.

IP Messaging uses the same software development kit as Twilio Video, announced in an April private beta. The SDK enables developing for iOS with Objective-C, Android with Java, the Web with JavaScript, and native C++. Developers can access server-side REST APIs from any language, according to information on the company's website.

This service also enables users to transfer content in the form of images, voice or video within the context of the chat session. By supporting the transmission of user-defined JSON objects, developers should be able to build a "smarter in-app experience."

In pricing the Twilio Real-time Communications Suite, Twilio kept scalability in mind, Khurana said. Twilio "went from a per-user/per-minute model... to a per-connection pricing model. So customers don't pay for sending video packets from one device to another. They pay for using the cloud infrastructure that's used to set up that connection," he explained.

To accommodate global scale, Twilio Video and Twilio IP Messaging run on the same geographically distributed infrastructure, which runs in 28 data centers in seven distinct regions.

Speaking to the need for global scale, Khurana said Twilio sees two trends. "We are seeing a lot of our customers that are software companies or startups, that are able to quickly prove the value of what they are delivering to customers in the U.S. And they are seeing success and expanding internationally. But also, a number of global enterprises are interested in delivering the same level of innovation that startups do. And they are adopting Twilio for that particular global communications need."

Twilio unveiled three new capabilities to support this growing enterprise globalization. Twilio's Global Conference solution supports conference calls of up to 250 participants dialing in from mobile, VoIP or landline phones. Twilio automatically hosts these conference calls in the closest geographic region to minimize latency and improve the conference experience.

Twilio's Epic Conference solution, available for early access, is for conference calls with large audiences such as all-hands meetings and earnings calls. Currently, Twilio hasn't set a cap on the number of participants allowed, as it works with early users to determine support needs, Khurana said. Epic Conference early access is expected to run for a couple months.

Lastly, on the globalization front, Twilio announced new mobile numbers and alphanumeric sender ID. Twilio is now offering mobile numbers in new countries, including Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary and Israel. With this, users are able to make calls with local numbers from almost 50 countries, as well as access more than 200 countries. Alphanumeric sender ID enables organizations to brand SMS messages with their business name, further establishing a local presence regardless of where the company is operating.

A new Messaging Copilot solution allows organizations to apply advanced delivery and localization intelligence to SMS and MMS applications. With Copilot, enterprises can send SMS messages using multiple Twilio phone numbers and short codes, allowing organizations to reach a large audience. They also can send messages with a local number, and have them rerouted through different phone numbers when short code delivery isn't possible.

Another new product, Twilio Monitor, "gives our customers visibility into every operational detail of what's happening with their Twilio account and with their Twilio application," Khurana said.

"They look at the usage, they look at any errors or alerts that might be happening, they set up triggers to see if there are any issues or concerns that they should be looking at -- and make ongoing changes from that point onwards."

Monitor is especially important to Twilio's larger customers as they grapple with challenges related to security and compliance, Khurana told me.

Finally, Authy, the service Twilio acquired in February, made a couple of announcements at Signal, too: Authy OneTouch, for simplifying authentication requests, and Authy OneCode, for on-demand generation of authentication codes.

Taken individually these announcements and releases might not seem like much. But when looked at collectively, it would seem that Twilio is working to create all the piece parts that make up a single platform for developers to build communications. It's hard to say for sure whether this single-platform goal has been fully achieved at this point, but Twilio's progress is certainly impressive and worth noting.

In fact, Twilio seems to be getting noticed more and more these days. In the beginning of the month, Twilio received a billion-dollar valuation, as reported by Forbes staff writer Alex Konrad. Cisco's SVP of Collaboration Rowan Trollope also mentioned Twilio as a competitor in a recent interview around Cisco's acquisition of Tropo. Some, including Fortune contributing editor Heather Clancy, have even gone as far as suggesting Facebook is a top Twilio competitor with its goal of turning Messenger into a business communications platform.

Regardless of what news piques your interest in Twilio, it's fair to say you're not alone.

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