Allow Fax To Reintroduce Itself: Meet Twilio Programmable Fax

The technology that brings you on-demand food in 5 minutes is new. The fax machine that printed out your order at the restaurant is not.

Fax is still an essential tool for a variety of organizations – from hospitals to law offices, from pizza shops to the offices of the Federal Investigation Bureau. But, fax was offline and brittle. Today, it’s online and ready to work.

We’re happy to announce we’ve launched Programmable Fax in Beta. You can now programmatically send and receive faxes using Twilio between any software application and a traditional fax machine.

Making Fax Flexible

Software is flexible. We’ve grown accustomed to bending it in and around obstacles to solve problems. Fax, like most legacy hardware, couldn’t bend the same way as software. With this release, fax becomes a great deal more flexible.

Fax was once relegated to fax machines. Phone calls were once relegated to phones, too. Now, sending fax with Twilio is as easy as making a phone call with Twilio. This saves businesses from the cost of a rip and replace operation, while giving them all the benefit of a newly minted software solution.

A great deal of businesses use both software and legacy hardware, like fax, to solve problems. Unfortunately, switchover costs and logistical constraints tend to keep those tedious, outdated legacy systems in place. This release gives those organization more dexterity when it comes to fax.

Take Slice for example. Slice lets you order pizza from a network of restaurants across the U.S. online or through their app, 24/7.  A majority of the restaurants Slice works with use fax to take inbound orders.

Pizza via Fax

Slice takes their users’ orders made on a software platform, like their website or app, and carries the order into the domain of hardware in the form of a fax to a restaurant. Using Twilio Programmable Fax, Slice can confidently send thousands of orders via fax, daily.

“Fax has always been part of our stack, going back 7 years. We just have to use it,” says Sam Kennedy, VP of Engineering at Slice. “The longer it takes to send a fax, the longer hungry customers have to wait for their pizza. The more faxes we can send, the more users we can serve. With Twilio Programmable Fax, we can send thousands of orders immediately, scale to our users’ demand, and do so confidently.”

You’re only a few clicks away from sending fax like Slice. Here’s how you use Twilio Programmable Fax.

How To Send A Fax

Check out all the docs on Twilio Fax here

You can now send a fax via POST request to Twilio. Include the fax-enabled Twilio number you’re sending the fax from, the recipient’s number, and the media URL of the fax. We currently only support media files in PDF format. Fire off the POST request and you’ve just sent a fax programmatically.

How To Receive A Fax

To receive a fax, configure your Twilio number as a fax number. This takes all of two seconds and a click from a dropdown menu. When someone sends a fax to your Twilio number, Twilio hits the URL you specified in the “When A Fax Comes In” field. You can easily configure this field with TwiML to accept or reject a fax. Once Twilio receives the fax, it will be converted to a PDF and stored.

Twilio Programmable Fax is supported globally for outbound faxes. We are rolling out support for inbound phone numbers for all of Twilio’s voice enabled inventory. The first batch of numbers to be enabled are in the US & Canada with the rest of the inventory coming online over the next month.

We can’t wait to see what you build with new, flexible Twilio Programmable Fax.

  • ardalis

    Them: “We need you to fax the document to us.”
    Me: “I’m sorry, I can’t fax because of where I live.”
    Them: “Where do you live?”
    Me: “The 21st century.”

    • Devin Rader

      Lol, indeed. No excuses anymore now ;)

  • LoisaidaSam

    This is great! I see this in the code:

    // log the URL of the PDF received in the fax

    If I set up a number to fax to, do I have to set up a proper URL endpoint somewhere for receiving the fax POSTs, or will it be logged in the calls log along with the media URL?

    • Devin Rader

      @LoisaidaSam:disqus you can use the phone numbers “Incoming Call” URL to have Twilio make an HTTP request to a URL on your server. As part of that request we pass the mediaUrl parameter. Fax also has its own log, so while faxes won’t show up in the Calls log, you can still use the REST API to get fax details, including media url for a specific fax sid.

  • Rick

    This is sweet

  • Marc Hodgins

    Have you considered allowing us to POST the (encoded) binary data of the PDF file as a parameter to the request? Rather than requiring a media_url.

    For some applications it is inconvenient to to supply a temporary http-accessible location for the media_url, would be nicer if we could just send the file data in the request.

    • John

      Please answer this – it is an important feature.