Twitter rolls out an app for Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant

Copyright Aaron Durand (@everydaydude) for Twitter, Inc.

Copyright Aaron Durand (@everydaydude) for Twitter, Inc.

Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant now speaks Twitter.

Twitter has rolled out an app called Twitter Reader so that people can have their Amazon Echo smart speakers or other Alexa-enabled devices recite their Twitter feeds. The app — which appears to be the first Alexa app from a major social network — seems to be coming from Twitter the news company more than Twitter the social network, since Twitter Reader serves mainly as an audible news reader a la Alexa’s built-in Flash Briefings.

In addition to reciting people’s main timelines, the Twitter Reader app, or “skill” in Amazon’s chosen parlance, can read aloud what topics are trending on Twitter near where the person’s location or somewhere else. People can then ask for a sample of tweets corresponding to one of these trends.

Particularly vain people can ask Alexa, via Twitter Reader, to check if anyone has mentioned them on Twitter or retweeted one of their tweets as well as to call out a person’s own tweets or tweets that they’ve liked.

It’s unclear whether Twitter has a way to make money from its Alexa app at this point. A Twitter spokesperson wouldn’t tell me anything about the Twitter Reader app, including whether it will read out Promoted Tweets between the normal tweets appearing in a person’s timeline or list of trending tweets.

My guess is it won’t. Twitter’s Alexa app seems to be using Twitter’s API, which doesn’t include Promoted Tweets when pulling tweets from a person’s timeline or other areas of Twitter. If that’s the case, then creating the Twitter Reader app was probably a pretty non-intensive undertaking for Twitter (I’ve built an API-incorporating Alexa app over the course of a couple weekends, and I’m way less seasoned than Twitter’s developers).

That also means that investing in Amazon’s Alexa platform isn’t a massive bet for Twitter. If a lot of people end using Twitter Reader to check their feeds and boost Twitter’s somewhat stagnant monthly and daily active user base, then great for the audience section in its next quarterly earnings report and maybe Twitter rolls out a way to generate revenue from those users. If instead people are like “Nah, Twitter, don’t talk to me,” no biggie.


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