TextIt, 3 Years Later

It’s been 3 years since we officially launched TextIt in Kigali, Rwanda. TextIt 1.0 was the culmination of 3 years’ work building custom SMS products for governments, NGOs and private companies across East Africa. Our goal was to enable every organization in the world to inexpensively leverage SMS to better accomplish their mission, and we introduced our solution in the form of a flow engine to manage automated messaging and the world's first Android phone channel–an application that turns your Android phone into an SMS modem that relays messages to an HTTP server and vice versa.

Since then, TextIt has grown to support research, polling and Bots through short codes, virtual phone numbers, Android phones, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Twitter and, by the end of 2016, Viber and Kik.

A Commitment to Affordability and Transparency

Through it all, we’ve maintained a commitment to providing a universally accessible service–both financially and technically. We switched to a pay-as-you-go pricing model, and pre-loaded each new account with 1,000 complimentary credits to allow you to test your service before committing.

We didn't stop there: we open sourced TextIt in 2014 to improve its accessibility and facilitate UNICEF's adoption of the platform. UNICEF's investment didn't end at open sourcing the platform; with their cooperation we’ve continued to add features that make TextIt even more dynamic and powerful. When you decide to incorporate TextIt into your organization’s communication systems, you can do so knowing that the software isn’t going anywhere. It's supported by a robust, global community of developers and providers. What’s more, we make our work public, allowing you to view our roadmap and track our progress.

In addition to an open code base, we provide world-class hosting. We’ve scaled considerably over the past two years, going from millions of messages per month to millions per day. When you host with TextIt, performance isn’t a question.

Drip Messaging Campaigns

We introduced campaigns, a powerful feature that enables you to schedule messages and flows around a date and time unique to each of your contacts. It’s since been adopted for post-purchase messaging, maternal reminders, and a variety of treatment-adherence programs and studies.

Comprehensive API

We built out our API to enable you to integrate with and/or build on top of each of TextIt’s core features: flows, contacts, message broadcasts and campaigns. Now, anyone can plug TextIt into their existing systems with ease. 

White Labeling

We introduced white-labeling-as-a-service, enabling any organization to leverage our hosting expertise and adopt TextIt’s software with their own branding.

IP Messaging Channels

TextIt now supports three different IP based channels which are playing an ever greater role in programs around the world. We provide first class support for Twitter, Telegram and Facebook Messenger, letting you use all the same tools we initially built for text messaging to automate other messaging channels. These IP platforms also support receipt of rich content, enabling you to collect pictures, videos, audio clips and GPS coordinates. We have plans to add Viber and Kik by the end of the year, and we’re anxiously waiting for WhatsApp to release a Bot API.

Flow Engine Enhancements

We recently added the ability to use flows as subroutines, enabling you to launch a child flow to collect variables and then return control to the parent flow. This approach greatly simplifies complicated systems in that you can centralize particular pieces of functionality. For example, you can create one registration flow and call it from any other flow, removing the need to build registration into each flow.

We also added timers to RuleSets, allowing you to send reminder messages to flow participants after a certain amount of time has elapsed without a response, or add a 'pause' in a flow to stagger messages.

An Offline Surveyor Tool

Late last year we introduced our offline surveying tool, Surveyor. Think of it as ODK Collect with a chat interface and much quicker setup process. You can use the same authoring tools we initially created for SMS to build flows that can be run offline on any Android device, allowing enumerators to collect rich data such as pictures, video, GPS coordinates, etc. in branching questionnaires. Surveyor is currently being used at scale in Nigeria to survey health clinics.

Platform Roadmap

We’re always adding and updating features based on your feedback. In the coming weeks, we’ll be launching some big ones:

  • A first class integration with TransferTo to enable airtime and mobile money transfers around the world.

  • A first class Zapier integration, extending the functionality our private Zapier app, which will enable you to use events in Flows as triggers to over 500 other apps and, conversely, trigger Flow starts through triggers in other apps.

  • The ability to pause a flow for a brief period and/or route a flow differently if a certain amount of time has elapsed without a response.

  • Outgoing MMS support for Twilio, Android and IP messaging channels.

Sign up for a free account to take advantage of these developments. Each new account is given 1,000 complimentary messages to help you get a feel for the platform. You'll also gain access to our newsletter, which provides updates on our progress and links to the articles we're reading. 

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