What is a Channel?

A channel is a communication stream that can be connected to Front. The most common channel type is email, but Twitter DMs, Facebook Messenger, and SMS are other great examples of communication channels that teams can use to send and receive messages in Front.

With the Channels API, a new channel type will display in the “Add a Channel” menu for your team, or for all Front teams if you apply to publish your app, along with the other channels that come out of the box with Front. Teams can then send and receive messages over that channel with all the collaboration, automation, and integration Front offers.

Channels can be built using Front’s APIs for a wide variety of use cases, including:

  • logging phone call records into Front
  • synchronizing third party SMS providers into Front
  • connecting a custom website live chat with Front

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Replies to channel messages must use the same channel.

You cannot receive an inbound message through a channel, and then reply to the message via another Front inbox such as your personal email account or a team inbox. If you would like to receive a message via a non-native channel and then reply to the message via another Front inbox, use the Import Message API endpoint instead.

Custom Channels vs Partner Channels

There are two types of channels that can be built through the Front API — Custom Channels and Partner Channels.

Feature

Partner Channel

Custom Channel

Receive inbound messages

:white-check-mark:

:white-check-mark:

Compose outbound messages

:white-check-mark:

:white-check-mark: (but disabled by default)

Compose new outbound messages with replies threaded in the same conversation

:white-check-mark:

:x:

Support for the Advanced composer

:white-check-mark:

:x:

Access to the Channel API

:white-check-mark:

:x:

Access to the Receive custom messages endpoint within the Core API

:x:

:white-check-mark:

Ability to configure the channel settings directly in Front

:x:

:white-check-mark:

The key difference is that a Partner channel allows you to create a new channel type that can be made available to all Front customers, whereas a Custom channel is designed to be used only by your Front instance.

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Partner Channels do not have to be made public.

Although Partner Channels are the only channel type that allows you to publish a channel for all Front customers to use, you can still create a Partner Channel that is private to your company.

Custom channels are simpler to implement because they already exist as a channel type within Front so you can develop your channel and then quickly configure necessary settings within Front. However, custom channels have limitations when composing outbound messages, which are disabled by default.

Given these considerations, you should build a Partner channel if you meet any of the following conditions:

  • You want to publish your channel as a public integration for any Front customer to use
  • Your channel needs to support composing new outbound messages from Front that keep subsequent replies threaded within the same conversation. Custom channels still support creating new outbound messages if you enable the appropriate setting, but because the replies aren't threaded in the same conversation, custom channels are better suited to use cases focused on replying to incoming conversations.
  • Partner Channels have access to the Channel API, whereas Custom Channels only have access to the Receive custom messages endpoint within the Core API.
  • You want your channel to support the Advanced composer.

Once you’ve decided on whether to build a custom channel or partner channel, you can continue with our dedicated guides:

Partner Channels

Custom Channels

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An example Partner Channel built to connect Drift with Front.


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