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Duolingo Improves App Engagement with Twilio Verify

How Duolingo uses secure contact syncing to make language learning a social experience

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The Results
followed and became social
more active users/day
increase in learning

Duolingo is an app designed to make language learning fun, free, and effective for anyone who wants to learn, wherever they are. As their global team worked towards realizing the value of socializing the learning experience, it just made sense to empower their existing user base to connect with their peers and friends so they can learn a language together. Nico Sacheri, Product Manager for Duolingo, discusses the impact Twilio had on their social connection functions.

Marrying gamification with social interactions for better app engagement

Learning a language is hard, so Duolingo makes it fun. To drive user engagement, the app feels like a game. Some gamified features apply to the individual, like a learning streak counter or leaderboards comparing their experience points—gained through language lessons—to other learners.

Some of the features that the Duolingo team has designed are more social like the Friends’ Quest. In this case, friends are matched with each other to collaborate on a common goal and earn rewards. Other features, like the “celebrate” and “encourage” options, allow collaboration and interaction with their friends.

To have access to these social features, however, learners must first be able to find their friends. In order to find their friends, Duolingo needed to validate that they were who they said they were. In addition, when their identity is confirmed, Duolingo can see which users have that phone number in their contact book and suggest them to follow each other. That’s where Twilio comes in.

In order to find friends more easily, we wanted to offer secure contact syncing, but we didn't have users’ phone numbers at Duolingo to match them with their contacts. With Twilio Verify, we could ask for their phone number and then offer to sync their contacts.

Nico Sacheri, Product Manager

Twilio + Duolingo = A secure, perfect partnership

Of course, Duo—the friendly green bird mascot seen throughout lessons—didn’t just wave his magic wand to make it all happen.

Users were encouraged to find their friends via a search engine or via Facebook. Seeking friends using a search engine was slow, clunky, and lacked meaningful validation functions. And Facebook tightened up its privacy policies making it more difficult to connect with their friends list.

The more robust social sharing Duolingo sought to add, the more security needed to be employed to ensure that people’s information remained safe. Twilio made the shortlist by easily integrating into Duolingo’s existing technology stack. Together, Twilio and Duolingo built a geographically agnostic way to validate users and connect them with their friends. With Twilio Verify, Duolingo ensures that mobile phone users are who they say they are through up-to-date phone data and substantiates that a user is in the possession of their device.

Twilio also worked closely with Duolingo to build a seamless customer experience that allowed users to just put in their phone numbers to be verified. After asking for access to a customer’s contacts, Duolingo uses Twilio Verify to send a one-time passcode via SMS. Once a customer confirms the correct one-time password, the learning platform shows the user all of their contacts on Duolingo.

From there they are able to engage in friend quests, celebrate, collaborate, and encourage one another. These social features enabled learners to stay motivated and learn more, making Duolingo more valuable and efficient.

By making it very easy for learners to find and interact with people through our rapidly growing set of social features, we saw users come to the app more often and stay for longer. Thanks to Twilio Verify, this has been a very successful experience for us.

Nico Sacheri, Product Manager

Connecting more friends and increasing app engagement on Duolingo

After less than six months, 18% more learners found and followed their friends for the first time. For those who chose to sync their contacts and connect with their friends, the app saw 1% increase in activity. By becoming more social, those users returned more just because they could connect with their network.

Moving Forward with Duolingo

Meaningful learning is more than just getting the right answer. It’s about using what you’ve learned to connect with others.

That’s why Duolingo’s social functions are incredibly impactful. The partnership between Duolingo and Twilio Verify allows learners to make valuable connections.

Duolingo is also considering experimenting with using WhatsApp as a verification method for some of its customers located around the globe. In addition, they’re exploring using Twilio Verify’s Silent Network Authentication for a seamless improved user experience. It provides secure user authentication without requiring users to input passwords, verification information, or complete CAPTCHAs.

Twilio’s verification API has helped Duolingo build a fun and frictionless customer experience while allowing our app users to build lasting relationship around the world through language.

Nico Sacheri, Product Manager