Twilio, the $2.4 billion Silicon Valley darling, is trying to reinvent fax

Consider the humble fax machine. Karl Baron/Flickr

Twilio, the $US2.4 billion Silicon Valley company behind one of 2016’s hottest IPOs, specialises in helping apps and websites send text messages and make phone calls.

If you’ve ever gotten a text from Uber that your car is on the way, or made an anonymous call to a would-be paramour via eHarmony, you’ve used Twilio. The company likes to bill itself as building the future of communications.

So it seems a little weird that, today, Twilio launches Programmable Fax, a new service that lets programmers enable their apps to send and receive faxes. Like, from a fax machine. In 2017. Weird, right?

“Fax is probably not what you think of, when you think about the future of communications,” says Twilio VP of Product Patrick Malatack.

But Malatack explains that, no matter how old-fashioned it may seem, a lot of companies in a lot of industries still rely on the trusty old fax machine. In real estate and law, important paperwork often still needs to be sent via fax for legal reasons; large restaurant or catering orders are sent via fax.

So by building a service that makes it much easier for hot new apps to send faxes, it’s actually bridging those two worlds.

For instance, the New York-based pizza delivery app Slice is using this Twilio Programmable Fax in its app — users place their order in the app, and it gets sent via fax to the pizzeria, the same way they have been taking orders for years. It brings the old and the new together.

Ilir mypizza slice

And while there were services out there that let you recieve faxes via email, it’s not exactly the same thing: This lets programmers build faxing into their own apps, the way they want to. It’s not totally crazy, thanks to Twilio’s new service, that you could see Amazon Alexa skills that fax off a dictated note.

In case you were wondering: No, this isn’t an April Fool’s Joke, though Malatack does note the “ironic” timing.

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