Truecaller Opens Paid API To Select Developers To Monetise Its Global Phone Directory

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Truecaller, the Sweden-based creater of a crowdsourced phone directory app and online white pages service, has opened its API to a select group of “handpicked” developers. Truecaller said its directory now contains some 960 million phone numbers, either contributed by individuals or harvested through partnerships with  other directory services. The API covers only the numbers Truecaller has in its own datacase, i.e. not partner numbers, meaning it covers around 600 million digits.

Truecaller’s numbers are global in scope, and include landline, mobile and pre-pay digits — the latter category giving it an edge over other directory services, it argues. Being as phone numbers amount to highly sensitive data in the wrong hands, Truecaller is being careful about who is getting access to its API — hence no open API. Telemarketing companies are specifically barred from getting their wires in. Being the company that helped spammers is clearly not the kind of publicity Truecaller is hoping for here.

One scenario where it envisages its API being a benefit to others but also without causing irritation to phone number owners is for call centres to identify who is calling before starting a call. Truecaller’s API allows for reverse number lookup, meaning developers can attach a name to a known number. It also returns a ‘Spam score’ to indicate if a number is a likely spammer (e.g. telesales or robocalls) and — at the other end of the spectrum — a ‘True score’ to indicate how important the number is. This score is “the measurement of how popular a phone number is with our users over time”.

Name search is not included in the API but remains solely a feature of Truecaller’s mobile app. Truecaller is charging developers to use some of the features of its API, so this is clearly part of its monetisation strategy. Its free API includes only how popular a phone number is. Pricing for the more fully featured APIs starts at $299 per month, rising to $4,999.

Truecaller said cloud e-signing company Scrive has been trying its API — as a way to validate the identity behind a phone number.

Asked about the types of customers it is envisaging for the API, Truecaller CEO Alan Mamedi told TechCrunch: “We’ve had more than a thousand applicants till now even as the API was unannounced. However, we evaluate all of them internally and in all cases test their application before given access. For the time being, the developers and companies that have been given access to our API are developing for B2B services.

“I believe the Truecaller API will benefit various companies such as major airlines like Delta Airlines to improve their customer support and experience (greeting by name, decrease waiting times by connecting incoming name to ticket information), but also identify well networked and loyalty members based on their True score.”

Last September Truecaller raised a $1.3 million Series A from Open Ocean, with the aim of expanding its footprint in its key markets of North America, Asia and the Middle East.