Twilio today is taking one more step in its bid to become the most ubiquitous voice and messaging API available to developers: it is announcing a partnership with Google’s Cloud Platform. This makes it the first time that a voice and messaging API-based solution has been integrated with the Google App Engine, giving developers on the platform — some 250,000 active, with 1 million registered apps at Google’s last count — the ability to integrate voice and messaging services into their web and mobile apps by way of a few lines of code.
The added functionality will sweeten the deal for developers, which Google hopes will attract them to its platform instead of opting for platform-as-a-service competitors like Amazon Web Services, Parse or Microsoft’s Azure platform. For its part, Twilio was already integrated with all three of those, as well as Sendgrid to offer similar services, according to Lynda Smith, CMO at Twilio.
Integrations like these are a sign of the times: developers are on the hunt for more functionality in their mobile and web apps, and they are increasingly gravitating to platforms where they can most easily pick and choose different features to build, store and serve out its apps — a shopping mall model for apps, as it were.
“Google App Engine is a platform that enables developers and businesses to build highly scalable web and mobile applications on top of Google’s computing infrastructure,” is how Chris Ramsdale, Google App Engine product manager, describes the service. “Finding a way to run applications quickly, securely and at scale is a hurdle for a variety of developers across web and mobile, which App Engine is a strong solution for.”
Pricing for the Twilio APIs will be the same as they are for others using them: they are priced on a pay-per-use scale. (For example, with voice services, they start at 2 cents per minute to make calls, and $1 per phone number plus 1 cent per minute to receive calls.)
Adding Google to list will also help Twilio in its bid to get more scale — essential for a company built around small margins on low-cost services to become profitable. Google says that those 250,000 active developers and 1 million apps generate some 7.5 billion page hits per day, 50 million Cloud SQL queries per day, and as 2 trillion datastore operations per month — with half of all Internet IP addresses touching Google App Engine servers each week. We’ve asked and will update on whether we can expect further integrations from Twilio, such as with Heroku. (Update: no specific plans here to reveal, but Twilio does tell me that they’ve now appointed a person whose main focus will be to help build out more partnerships like this, another sign of how it will be trying to add more scale to its operation going foward.)
“By using Google Cloud Platform and Twilio, independent developers and enterprises alike can build and scale real world businesses faster than ever,” said Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson in a statement.
Twilio tells me that in addition to basic, one-to-one voice and messaging — the services for which Twilio is best known, and which recently got enhanced with added SIP support — other features that will be available to App Engine developers through its SDK include in-app conference calling and group texting, as well as mobile app distribution and two-factor authentication and phone numbers. On the landing page (now live) for the new service, Twilio notes that it’s offering new sign-ups upgrading to the Google App Engine a $20 credit, good for 2,000 texts or the equivalent value in inbound voice minutes.
Interestingly, Twilio’s emergence on the Google platform comes at a time when Google has declined to offer this kind of functionality for its own telephony services. “Google’s voice services, such as Google Now and Google Voice are consumer-facing products, while Twilio’s APIs are aimed at developers, giving them the building blocks to build new voice creations, or customize their applications and workflows with communications features. We don’t see a conflict here,” said Smith.
I’ve long wondered what future services Twilio will be turning on as it continues to mature. As networks continue to improve, video is one that I think they will offer sooner rather than later. Interestingly, another area that was is also coming up is around security: Smith tells me that one trend is more attention for two-factor authentication, which she calls a “growth market.”
“Many companies are adding TFA because of the recent high profile security breaches,” she notes. “We think that within a few years, TFA will be the standard and the services that don’t provide this option will be in the minority.”
This is not an off-the-shelf product that Twilio offers, but it, along with mobile app distribution, are two services that can be built using Twilio.
One customer that uses the distribution feature, for example, is Hipmunk, which can send users a text message with a direct link to download their app. Box is among the companies using Twilio’s two-factor authentication service to send text messages with temporary PINs to verify user identities when they access Box from an unknown device.