TeleSign wants to take on Twilio

CaaS, CPaaS or developer platform? No matter the name, comms as an API is the future game.

adolphe bitard   telephone2
Credit: Adolphe Bitard

When Twilio had its successful IPO this year, a whole range of people were introduced to the idea of building successful businesses on top of modular developer tools. Twilio, after all, doesn't do a product that you or I as consumers can use, but it's a safe bet that we interact with a service powered by Twilio on a frequent basis.

You see, Twilio and its ilk do something very specific: It offers communications services (telephony, fax, SMS, video) as a service that application developers then use to run the comms aspects of their own platforms. When you "click to call" or "click to message" your driver in Uber, for example, you're actually using a product delivered by Twilio.

This idea of leveraging third-party developer tools is increasingly becoming the norm when building applications. You see, in this day and age when speed and agility are the most important factors, being able to abstract responsibility for a particular aspect of your application functionality to a third party is an attractive proposition. This is, of course, one of the core value propositions that public cloud computing platforms offer.

Why rack-and-stack physical servers when you can simply rent 'em on a virtual basis from vendors like Amazon, Microsoft or Google?

So with the added awareness of developer tools, there is increasing competition, and TeleSign (a company that has been around since 2005) wants to jump into the space.

If TeleSign isn't a name that suddenly jumps out to you when thinking about communication tools, you're not alone. The company is actually best-known as a security vendor. Th company mainly provides two-factor authentication services -- something pretty well removed from Twilio's focus.

But there is something of an intersect: One of TeleSign's services is an end-user authentication service that analyzes phone data (such as phone number, device model number, telecom operator and type of SIM connection) and ends up with a score to "prove" the authenticity (or otherwise) of a user. This exposure to the communications world resulted in TeleSign's somewhat sideways focus into the CPaaS (communications platform as a service, for the uninitiated) space.

That focus culminates today in the debut of TeleSign's CPaaS offering, which the company touts as a tool to deliver digital innovation and transformation to organizations. It seems that TeleSign wants to leverage its existing enterprise footprint (nine of the top 10 U.S. internet brands and 20 of the top 25 global internet brands are customers) and to deliver them a new service.

The new service is described as a developer-friendly self-service platform and a corresponding suite of easy-to-integrate communication and security APIs. Never one to shy away from talking things up, TeleSign is articulating that, in one move, this launch sees them "poised for leadership in the CPaaS market."

In this claim, TeleSign would appear to be backed up by analyst firm IDC, which came out to declare that "TeleSign [is] Poised for Market Leadership in CPaaS"-- this despite it being a new market area for the company.

But there is certainly justification for saying that CPaaS is a big opportunity area. Research from TeleSign (so, yes, take it with a grain of salt but it is at least indicative) shows 91% of developers plan to embed communications APIs or SDKs into their apps in the next year. IDC also forecasts that the CPaaS market will top $8.2 billion by 2021.

So what is TeleSign introducing today? TeleSign's new self-service capabilities let developers create an account, get API credentials (along with $5 in free credits) and use their credit card to purchase services. The new portal offers access to many of TeleSign's APIs, including:

  • TeleSign Messaging API -- Allows developers to add real-time communications in the form of SMS-based alerts, reminders, notifications, invites, two-way communication, OTPs and other automated messages to web and mobile applications.
  • TeleSign Voice API -- Allows developers to add real-time communications in the form of voice-based alerts, reminders, notifications, OTPs and other automated messages to web and mobile applications.
  • TeleSign Score -- A fraud risk assessment API that delivers reputation scoring based on phone number intelligence, traffic patterns, machine learning and a global data consortium.
  • TeleSign PhoneID -- Provides a cleansed phone number, phone type and telecom carrier information that can be used to determine which phone numbers are a potential fraud risk, and what the best communication method for a phone number is (voice, SMS).
  • Auto Verify -- An SDK to provide a frictionless user verification process into existing Android applications in a secure, low-cost way.

In other words, TeleSign offers some (but not all) of what Twilio does when it comes to CPaaS, and more than Twilio when it comes to the more security-centric functionality.

MyPOV

TeleSign is a great vendor with an impressive roster of customers. It undeniably delivers value to these customers. With a product launch, however, it in no way becomes No. 1 or even justifies laying claim to being en route to No. 1. Is Twilio shaking in its boots today? I'd suggest not, and don't forget that Twilio has been investing (both through R&D and M&A) to more strongly enter the security market that TeleSign is more dominant in.

So this is more about posturing and positioning than it is substantive market share positioning. Both companies (and the other competitors in the space) offer powerful services and help their enterprise customers deliver agility -- I just wish there wasn't so much lily-gilding going on.

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