Amazon clarifies what types of ads are allowed in Alexa skills and reaffirms that most ads are banned

Amazon updated their developer policy recently to ban nearly all advertisements from Alexa skills. As the Alexa platform continues to rapidly grow, having now reaching over 12,000 skills, it’s beginning to attract advertisers, despite Amazon’s policy on the matter. Amazon has just updated their policy on Alexa skill ads again to be more specific on the types of ads that are allowed, and reassert that the vast majority of ads are not permitted in Alexa skills. Read more ›

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All Alexa-enabled devices will soon get notifications

Notifications from Amazon and Alexa skills will soon be coming to all Alexa-enabled devices. This includes Amazon’s own Alexa devices, like the Echo and Echo Dot, as well as 3rd-party devices, like the newly released Ecobee4 smart thermostat. All notifications will be opt-in per skill through the Alexa app, so you’ll have to explicitly turn them on separately for each Alexa skill. Read more ›

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Amazon will directly pay developers of top Alexa game skills based on customer engagement

Amazon is shutting down their Underground appstore, but they’re not giving up on the idea of paying developers based on the amount of time users play a game. Starting this month, the retailer will be directly paying developers of top Alexa game skills. Payments will be based on “a variety of metrics, such as minutes of usage, new customers, and other measures of engagement.” Read more ›

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Alexa Skills can now read and modify your shopping and to-do lists

Late last year, Amazon added support for 3rd-party list managers to Alexa. This allowed services like or Todoist to take over list managing duties from Alexa, so saying “add eggs to my shopping list” would modify the 3rd-party list and not the list built into the Alexa app. For those not interested in using a 3rd-party list manager and just want to use Alexa’s built-in lists with some more features, Amazon is now allowing Alexa skill developers to read and modify your default Alexa shopping and to-do lists. Read more ›

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Amazon bans nearly all ads from Alexa Skills

Amazon has updated their Alexa Skills Policy to outright ban nearly all advertisements from skills. The policy used to state that ads were only not allowed in Alexa cards, which are the visual snippets of information that appear on the Fire TV and Fire Tablets, that compliment Alexa responses. Now the Alexa skills policy states that a skill will be rejected from entry into the Alexa Skill Store if it “contains any advertising for third-party products or services, except in streaming music, streaming radio or flash briefing skills.” Read more ›

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Any Alexa skill can now be used without enabling it first

Alexa skills are the equivilant of apps for Amazon’s voice assistant, and the company has incrementally been making it easier to use new skills. You first had to use the Alexa app to enable a skill before it could be accessed, but then Amazon added the ability to enable a skill using your voice. Now they’ve taken it a step further by making it possible to simply say “Alexa, open [SKILL NAME]” and it will immediately be available without first having to enable it. Read more ›

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Amazon will pay for Alexa Skill hosting with free $100 monthly credits

Amazon just started a new promotion for developers where they’ll pay up to $100 per month of AWS hosting for Alexa Skills. For the majority of skills, this would make publishing and hosting a skill on Amazon’s cloud servers completely free for the developer of the skill. Developers simply need to apply for the credit once and they’ll receive $100 of AWS credit once their skill is live. Then, if the skill’s hosting usage surpasses AWS’s free tier and uses up the initial $100, the developer will automatically receive an additional $100 AWS credit each month.

This new promotion essentially makes all but the most CPU and bandwidth intense skills completely free to host, since the majority of skills don’t require much as far as hosting resources are concerned. While most of the 10,000+ Alexa skills currently survive on the AWS free tier alone, this promotion should hopefully encourage developers to create more elaborate skills without worrying about hosting fees.

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Amazon’s Alexa now has over 10,000 3rd-party skills

Amazon has revealed that Alexa has surpassed 10,000 skills. Alexa Skills are similar to phone apps, in that they are created by 3rd-parties to add functionality to the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Tap, Fire TV, and Fire TV Stick. The number of skills being created has shot up exponentially in recent months. Back when Amazon added the ability to rate and review skills a little over a year ago, there were only 91 skills. Just 6 months later, when Amazon improved skill discoverability and added the ability to enable skills by asking Alexa, the number of skills were up to 1,400. By the time Amazon finally launched dedicated web pages for Alexa skills five months later, there were over 4,000 skills. Now that number has more than doubled in just under 4 months.

Of course, just like with Fire TV apps, the number of total Alexa skills is not nearly as important as the number of quality skills. You’ll have to ignore a bunch of cookie cutter trivia games and fact skills to find ones that truly add value to your device.

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Amazon’s Alexa gains more personality through special Speechcon expressive words

Amazon has added support for Speechcon words and phrases to Alexa. Speechcons are exclamations that will be pronounced more expressively by Alexa. There are nearly 200 different words, from abracadabra to zoinks, that Alexa Skill developers can choose to include in their Alexa responses. You can see the full list of words, and hear what Alexa sounds like saying each word, here on Amazon’s developer site. This new ability should add a bit of fun and emotion to Alexa’s usual monotone pronunciations. I’d say nanu nanu and dynomite are good ones.

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All the voice commands understood by the Plex Alexa Skill

The newly released Plex Alexa Skill is a great way to control the Plex app with your voice using a voice remote on the Amazon Fire TV or through an Amazon Echo. Here’s the full list of available voice commands that Plex understands. Read more ›

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