The world of SMS and telephony is filled with logistical hurdles. San Francisco-based startup Twilio‘s goal is to make them a lot less daunting, by offering an API that lets developers send texts, place calls, and do other common functions using some basic and initiative commands. And today they’re opening a new portion of its API to the public: The Twilio SMS shortcode API.
Shortcodes, which are typically used for sending huge volumes of text messages, are nothing new, but the process involved to acquire one can be lengthy (and it requires a long term commitment). Twilio’s looking to help with this. It can’t make the process go any faster, but once a developer submits their application, Twilio will handle all the negotiations involved with the carriers. Developers can then get started building their apps using standard 10-digit numbers, and can then switch over to their new 5- or 6- digit shortcode once it’s approved.
The API has been available to developers for some time via a private beta program (Twilio says it’s already processed over 100 short code applications). But Twilio says that, as of the beginning of the year, there were over 1031 short codes still available in the US. That may not sound like a huge opportunity for Twilio (after all, Twilio already has tens of thousands of developers using its SMS API) , but there’s a lot of money involved for each shortcode.
Short code leases run $1500 per month for a custom code, or $1000 for one chosen at random — a chunk of these fees go toward acquiring licenses from organizations like the Common Short Code Administration. And customers also pay one cent per outbound and .5 cents per inbound text message sent via the API. Remember, these short codes are optimal for sending a lot of text messages, so those per-text charges can translate into a significant amount of money for Twilio. Twilio is also allowing developers to lease shortcodes on a per-quarter basis, as opposed to a standard annual contract.