Twitter Improves Digits Login Tool For Devs

Updates added to Twitter's Digits login means it will be easier for developers and consumers to use the service for verifying identity within apps.

Digits, part of Twitter’s Fabric product, today announced an update that will improve the experience for developers and consumers alike. The good news is developers shouldn’t have to do too much work to take advantage of the new features.

Twitter launched Digits last year. The basic concept is to let web and app consumers use their phone number — rather than email address or social network login — as their primary means of identification. Google, potentially sensing that an update to Digits was on the way, published a blog post on Monday heralding their #NoHacked initiative that in part promotes some of Google's two-factor authentication methods.   

Before Digits, however, verifying identity via phone number was not an easy implementation for web and app developers. Digits’ approach is two-pronged: Consumers can manage their identity via the website and developers can plug the Digits API into their website or app for quick verification. When signing into new apps or websites, users simply enter their phone number and then the verification code is sent via SMS.

In the months since Digits launched, however, two shortcomings have become apparent: One, people change their phone numbers from time to time; and two, SMS messages don’t always reach every phone when sent. Digits says it has one of the most reliable SMS delivery rates in the industry, but even so, messages still tend to get lost in transit from time to time. This leaves people unable to verify their identity, and unable to sign into the app/site in question.

Twitter has resolved both these issues with today’s update.

Customers can now easily register new phone numbers with Digits to replace an old one. A Digits user can simply access their account online and use it to keep their number up-to-date. Digits users can choose any number to verify their identity, although obviously mobile numbers are the preferred case here. What’s more, Digits will make sure app/web developers are kept in-the-know via notifications when users change their number.

The second improvement is support for both SMS and voice verification. Digits has always supported SMS verification, but in instances when SMS messages fail to go through, apps/sites can elect to make a phone call to the registered phone number to verify the user’s identity. This way the onboarding process won’t fail and people will be able to get into the app when they want to.

The best part? It’s free for consumers and developers to use, and developers can enable these changes automatically.

Rather than force developers to rebuild their user interface or swap providers, the Digits SDK and its REST APIs provide all the necessary functionality. Developers need only upgrade their SDK and Digits takes care of the rest.

Twitter is experimenting with this feature on iOS devices first in the U.S., India, and Brazil. Twitter said it will add support for more countries over time.

Eric Zeman I am a journalist who covers the mobile telecommunications industry. I freelance for ProgrammableWeb and other online properties.