Integrated communication features are vital for a web or mobile application. Software development companies have to deal with all the complications resulting from programming language incompatibilities, diversity of protocols on top of all the specialized servers, and software needed to integrate these features into their applications. At the same time, it should be as simple as using a cell phone or a home internet connection for the end-users of the applications.
Twilio came into the market a few years back and offloaded this burden from the developers. With simplest text messages to complex communications, Twilio enables businesses to keep an impactful engagement with users worldwide.
What is Twilio?
Twilio is a customer engagement functionality provider used by developers worldwide to build unique communication features and capabilities like voice, text, chat, video, and email into their applications.
Twilio helps the developers to achieve this task by converting the real-world events into virtual signals that software can handle and provides APIs and SDKs to access these events. Developers can use the same languages and protocols they already use in their applications and respond to the events in other channels (voice, text, etc.) using the Twilio Markup Language (TwiML).
Now you must be wondering what exactly Twilio does to connect the world of telephony to our applications and why developers should use Twilio.
Let's find out in the next section.
5 Ways How Developers Can Use Twilio
As communicating with the telephony network requires the ability to target the communication to a particular device, Twilio has a phone number inventory which has phone numbers that provide a virtual presence on the physical telephony network. Developers can search Twilio's phone number inventory, select a number that fits their use cases (by region, country, the alpha-numeric meaning behind the number) and configure this to quickly and cheaply integrate communication features into their applications.
Source: Twilio MessagingX
Twilio MessagingX enables applications to easily communicate with end-users over their preferred channel by providing APIs such as Programmable messaging API, Conversations API, and Verify API to send and receive SMS, MMS, OTT messages (WhatsApp and Messenger) at scale.
Here are some of the use cases of Twilio MessagingX.
- Send notifications, mass alerts, and business messages: With the help of the Programmable messaging API, which is a REST API, the developers can send and receive SMS and MMS messages, track the delivery of sent messages, schedule SMS messages to send at a later time, and retrieve and modify message history. On top of that, with the help of Twilio short-codes ( 5 or 6-digit mobile numbers), developers can send time-sensitive alerts and send messages in bulk.
- Build conversations that can span multiple channels: Using the Conversations API, developers can integrate functionality to start a conversation with SMS and seamlessly continue it over another channel such as Chat or WhatsApp. The API can also create conversations with multiple parties and set up webhooks to monitor and intercept the conversations.
- Validate Users: With the help of the Verify API, developers can integrate user validation via TOTP, Push, SMS, voice, or email.
Source: Twilio Programmable Voice
You can use Twilio Programmable Voice to integrate scalable calling functionalities (make, take, and modify calls from any device) such as PSTN, SIP, or VoIP to your applications with the help of the Programmable Voice API and Programmable Voice SDKs.
Some of the functionalities offered by Programmable Voice are:
- Customize the calling experience: With the help of add-on features such as Interactive Voice Response (IVR), recording transcriptions, and speech recognition, developers can increase customer engagement and reduce operating costs.
- Build a secure and scalable voice experience: The Voice SDKs can build scalable, WebRTC powered voice applications for all browsers and devices. With the help of the Voice API's temporary phone number proxies, sensitive data of all parties involved in the communication can be secured. Twilio also provides functionalities to support multi-party calling, global dial-in, and secure connections with up to 250 participants.
Source: Twilio Video
Some of the features for the Twilio video are:
- Create unique video applications: Since Twilio video offers customizable video options built on top of WebRTC, developers can quickly adjust the functionalities according to their needs with custom layouts, virtual backgrounds, etc.
- Fast integration: With the help of Twilio developer tools such as Studio Application Builder and Twilio CLI, developers can easily integrate video directly into new or existing applications backed by an enterprise-grade cloud infrastructure.
- Ensure high-quality video experience: Quality control can be implemented by measuring the network performance and video room performances using APIs such as Video Log Analyzer and Network quality API. Apart from that, the Network Bandwidth Profile API can prioritize video track bandwidth across participants. Twilio has recently announced a public beta tool called Video Insights that provides analytics and aggregations to monitor the video applications, discover trends, and troubleshoot rooms and participants, which can be used to ensure a quality video experience.
4. Twilio Live
Source: Twilio Live
The Twilio Live programmable platform has a REST API and Player SDKs that developers can use to create applications that host live virtual events with interactive streamable content for an unlimited audience.
Some of the functionalities offered by Twilio Live are:
- Easily Integrate live streaming: With the help of Twilio live streaming APIs, SDKs, and sample codes, developers can easily create a live streaming application from scratch or directly embed live streaming into an existing application.
- Integrate full-featured interactive live streaming experience to an application: While Twilio Video Rooms can be used to customize the host, speaker, and audience interfaces for a full-featured live stream application, interactivity can be added with text-based chat, audience polls, the option to invite audience members "on stage" to speak, and more.
- Stream at global scale: The secure cloud-based infrastructure of Twilio Live is optimized to stream events globally with minimum latency.
- Securely record live streams in real-time: The APIs provide functionalities for real-time audio-video record and save content securely.
Twilio SendGrid Email API helps developers integrate email communication functionalities through its RESTful APIs and SMTP. It enables developers to build a platform that increases customer engagement by ensuring reliable email delivery that solves deliverability challenges at any scale: be it 100 emails or 100 billion emails per month.
Here are some of the functionalities and advantages of Twilio SendGrid API:
- Less struggle to integrate email services to applications: Developers can easily send bulk emails using the SMTP service with Twilio SendGrid, which is much more efficient than local SMTP servers. Since SendGrid has all the necessary APIs and products to implement an email service clearly documented in their documentation, we can simply build our application with a preferred language supported by their libraries.
- Functionalities to protect brand reputation: Twilio offers functionalities such as Teammate Permissions, API keys, 2FA, and IP access management to control account security and ensure data privacy with services such as Event Webhook Security, SOC 2 Type II, GDPR, and opportunistic and enforced TLS encryption. Twilio SendGrid also has dedicated fraud and compliance teams to prevent malicious email activities related to users' accounts.
- Optimize the email program with support tools and analytics: Twilio SendGrid has an intuitive dashboard that provides stats and helps us troubleshoot emails delivery. We can track the engagement data on whether the emails are delivered, opened, clicked, unsubscribed, or bounced using the Deliverability Insights. On top of all these features, they also offer expert services to help developers with email program architectures, email service migration from other email providers, and preventing deliverability issues.
Note: You can find documentation of all the services offered by Twilio here.
This article went over the five primary services offered by Twilio that support developers to implement communication functionalities to their software applications. However, throughout the article, I'm sure you have noticed that what Twilio offers is not just limited to those five. Many other Twilio's primary services, APIs, and build tools such as Studio Application Builder and Twilio CLI support, make our lives a lot easier.
So, I recommend you give it a go and see how to make the communications experience more convenient and intuitive for you and your customers with Twilio.
Thank you for reading!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use Twilio for free?
Yes, Twilio offers an efficient and convenient trial account for the users who wish to explore the Twilio products. You don't have to provide any billing information to get this free account, and you can upgrade only if you have a requirement to do so. Furthermore, the free version doesn't have a trial duration. For example, the free version of Twilio SendGrid Email API enables one account to send 100 emails per day forever!
However, there are some limitations. You can find more details on how to use your free trial account and the free and paid pricing plans of all Twilio products here.
Why is Twilio so popular?
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, Twilio bridges the gap between the telephony world and the Internet. Their APIs and SDKs could be used to easily integrate communication functionalities into applications with just a few lines of code: a task that is quite complex, time-consuming, and costly if it was to be implemented from scratch.
Apart from offering communication functionalities, Twilio also provides tools like Twilio CLI, Studio Application Builder for developers to boost the development process of applications. Also, tools like Twilio Frontline, Twilio Engage, and Twilio Flex for businesses and sales teams help to improve digital engagement.
On top of offering complex functionalities in simple commands, Twilio is very easy to use, and all the APIs and products are very well documented. Furthermore, Twilio has flexible pricing plans with pay-as-you-go and trial access to all its products.
As a result, Twilio became popular among developers and businesses quite fast, and as of now, it's still one of the leading companies that offer communication services.
Is Twilio the best communication API option for developers?
While Twilio is quite popular among the developers, it's not the only company that offers a Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS).
One of the significant drawbacks of Twilio is the necessity to upgrade to a paid version when the customer traffic for the applications built using Twilio grows, and this causes many companies to incur a relatively high cost per month. Therefore, if you are looking for a low-cost CPaaS, there are some alternatives like jambonz and MessageBird.
Another drawback of Twilio is that even though its messaging services are robust, the Voice services have some weaknesses. Bandwidth is one of the alternatives which has better voice services.
What companies use Twilio, and who are its biggest customers?
Twilio's customer base comes from various industries such as education, healthcare & life sciences, retail and e-commerce, food & beverages, financial services, and many more.
Its biggest customers are Marks & Spencer, eBay, Zendesk, Allergan, and Lyft.