Twilio embraces VoIP as the phone network fades away

Twilio, the company, which provides a service so companies and web services can add voice or SMS to their menu of options, now will offer access to a VoIP service as well. The company, whose APIs underlie popular apps like GroupMe and Beluga, now offers developers the option to use all IP communications as well as the old-school phone and mobile networks.

Previously the company’s killer app was its hooks into the old copper-based phone system that can be expensive and complicated for smaller companies to learn to use and write to. It has gained huge success and helped open up voice for a wide variety of applications. Hulu, for example built its customer service call centers on Twilio. Now folks can add VoIP to the mix, says Jeff Lawson, co-founder and CEO of Twilio.

“When it came to the PSTN, there are a lot of use cases where that doesn’t make sense,” Lawson said. “To use it people must bring their own device or cell plans.”

Instead, Twilio will now try to out-Skype Skype and the myriad other VoIP services out there with the added bonus of continuing to offer access to the older networks as well. So if you are on your computer shopping and you have a click-to-call button, instead of an agent calling you back, you can call using VoIP. This is cheaper for the developer that pays Twilio for access to the networks and more seamless for the shopping site’s customer. It also gives developers more options to build VoIP calling into their apps.

Late last year Twilio raised $12 million in additional funding, and it has become a hot back end provider of infrastructure, so this move makes sense. Not only is the world moving rapidly to IP but the old-school copper network that Twilio makes easier to use is also on its way out the door. Some experts believe that by 2018 it will be gone. Plus, LTE networks will be VoIP as well eventually. Twilio is just anticipating the future.

And that future isn’t voice, but apps that provide the context for the best means for communication. It may be voice, it may be video or it may be text, but Lawson (while not committing to anything beyond expressing interest in video) expects Twilio to be there on the back end enabling developers to offer communication with a minimum of fuss.

“Voice is an experience. It is more than just the mechanics of how we are communicating,” Lawson said in a phone interview. “The nature of the communication and the context of why we are communicating determines how we communicate. That’s why the apps are driving the next wave, because that’s where the context comes from.”