Twilio’s API for WhatsApp adds a new line of communication between Zambia’s national malaria elimination center and the facility & community health workers who travel in and out of cellular service.PATH

Twilio is a company that has made headlines before, often as a result of its earnings and IPO potential. Other reports have also spent time looking inside the Twilio platform, so we know that Twilio offers communications services including texting, voice and video calls for developers to build these comms functions into their applications.

Developers can make these communication functions happen inside their own applications using Twilio’s web service Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) — bits of ‘software glue’ that connect one discrete & defined chunk of software to another.

Communications inside ‘any’ app

As previously noted here on Forbes, the Twilio Functions product gets around the fact that in the past, developers would be forced to spend time on setting up, operating and securing web servers, or enlisting the help of infrastructure experts in order to run communications code for their applications.

The company also offers tools to enable developers to see where and when SIMs are connected and monitor data consumption in real time with individual SIM reporting.

It’s like you had an app that didn’t do communications (because it was a spreadsheet, an HR personnel management system, a video game… anything basically), but now that app can offer the ability for the users to interact with other people through communications functions. Those ‘other people’ can also be working inside that same ‘now communications-empowered’ app, or indeed outside of it using ‘normal’ communications apps.

Now… WhatsApp inside an app

Not content with text, voice and video services in their existing format options, Twilio has now partnered with WhatsApp to enable developers to integrate WhatsApp messaging into their applications for the first time. But why? Because says the company, modern consumers want to communicate with businesses just as they do with friends and family with flexible messaging that can be personalized according to their needs.

“New channels like WhatsApp provide rich experiences for end users interacting with developers and their applications around the world,” said Jeff Lawson, CEO of Twilio. “We’re excited to provide the most expansive set of messaging experiences to billions of end users, all via one easy to use API. We can’t wait to see what developers build.”

Lawson notes that the Twilio API means that his firm is removing a lot of the overhead for developers by hosting and managing the software containers required to run WhatsApp.

The company also points out that it is possible for developers to use just one API to add any messaging channel including SMS, MMS, Facebook Messenger, Line (a freeware app for instant communications on smartphones, tablets & PCs) and now WhatsApp (instead of having to navigate a new API for each one). The Twilio API for WhatsApp combines Twilio’s enterprise-grade messaging APIs with the global ubiquity and end-to-end encryption of WhatsApp.

How popular is WhatsApp?

Twilio removes the operational overhead of managing and scaling WhatsApp for developers, making it a way for businesses to start communicating with the more than 1.5 billion users of WhatsApp. in 180 countries, who send more than 60 billion messages per day.

Do some users really prefer WhatsApp to email? It appears so… and some actually need it for a reason.

“[Previously known as Program for Appropriate Technology in Health] PATH’s Visualize No Malaria initiative aims to end malaria in Zambia by 2021. Incorporating new technologies brings us closer to that goal,” said Cara Bradley, chief corporate engagement officer at PATH. “Twilio’s API for WhatsApp adds a new line of communication between Zambia’s national malaria elimination center and the facility and community health workers who travel in and out of cellular service, helping to share time-sensitive data on new malaria cases and health facility progress to inform our response efforts. We are extremely excited about the potential for this to help accelerate progress towards elimination of malaria in Zambia.”

Prior to this move by Twilio, the company insists that supporting a variety of messaging channels meant wrestling with variations in API schemas, capabilities and toolings.

Some channels have open APIs while others require a hosted deployment model that requires developers to test and maintain integrations with multiple APIs. With Twilio, developers no longer need to deal with this fragmentation in the messaging ecosystem, and instead, can focus on building the app they want.

Should we question the ‘fragmentation of communications’ and the fact that some users email, some telephone, some tweet, some SMS text, some MMS, some Facebook message, some Line, some WeChat and some WhatsApp? Many would argue that we’re making it all more difficult for ourselves to connect as communications now straddles different platforms.

Comms fragmentation in general may be a different story, Twilio’s move is at least bringing a certain extra level of additional connectivity to bear on what is an undeniably powerful communications channel… and that’s generally a positive.

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