Alexa Skill Counts Surpass 80K in US, Spain Adds the Most Skills, New Skill Rate Falls Globally
Amazon Alexa skills in the U.S. surpassed 80,000 at the end of 2020. The company has long claimed over 100,000 Alexa skills worldwide but that doesn’t accurately reflect the number of Alexa skills available to any individual user as many skills are not available in all countries or languages. The 80,111 skill count in the U.S. is more than double the next most skill populated market, the UK. However, the new U.S. total reflects a one-year growth rate of only 13% and the addition of fewer than 10,000 new skills for the entire year of 2020, the lowest nominal growth since 2016.
When you look at the figures for January 2021 compared to earlier years, two data points stand out. First, the English-speaker markets have far more Alexa skills than others. This is a function of how easy Amazon’s Alexa Skill Kit (ASK) makes it to publish a single skill to multiple countries simultaneously without modification for the same language. As a result, many skills originally developed for the U.S. market have been immediately available in the UK, India, Canada, and Australia. Conversely, many Alexa developers in those countries also make their skills available in the U.S., Alexa’s largest user market be a significant margin.
Second, you can see that there were more new Alexa skills introduced in Spain than in any other market in 2020 aside from the U.S. There were nearly 6,000 new skills added to the Alexa Skill store for Spain last year compared to just over 9,000 for the U.S. The next closest market was the UK with about 3,000 new Alexa skills in 2020. It is fair to say that newer markets where Alexa devices have been available for a shorter time are growing their skill count more quickly. Spain showed 126% nominal growth followed by 40% in France and 28% in Italy. With the exception of Japan, all of the countries that have had Alexa devices for at least three years grew their skill count by less than 10%.
New Alexa Skill Introduction Rate Continues to Fall
Voicebot began reporting in July 2019 that the new Alexa skill introduction rate was declining. While the total Alexa skill count continued to rise across countries, we noticed that the growth rate was falling. Noting that it is difficult to maintain a growth rate as your base of existing skills rises, we began analyzing the rate of new skills launched in any given period which provides an easy way to compare on apples-to-apple basis.
While we have this data on a quarterly basis, there is some seasonality to Alexa skill launches so looking at full years provides a useful analysis period that depicts a clear and continuing trend. It will surprise no one that new Alexa skills introduce per day is highest in the first year after the introduction of Alexa-enabled devices into a country. The only exception to this is the U.S. where skill introductions grew for two years prior to peaking in 2018. Much of this had to do with building awareness around the Alexa ecosystem and building the tools developers needed to launch skills.
The number of third-party skills can be roughly equated to the breadth of what consumers can do with a voice assistant. This is not entirely fair because it does not account for all of the native functionality (i.e. first-party skills) that a voice assistant such as Alexa offers. However, it is a proxy for the breadth of capability given that there is no practical way to count features of an assistant and the leading assistants support roughly the same base, first-party functionality. So, one hypothesis is that as third-party skill introductions ebb, the expansion rate of Alexa capabilities declines. It doesn’t mean Alexa’s is losing functionality, but instead, that new features and benefits are arriving more slowly than in the past.
What Alexa Skill Totals Tell Us
Voicebot has been told that Amazon has several hundred thousand registered Alexa skill developers. These developers can apply their efforts to building and launching new Alexa skills or to enhance existing skills. Indeed, there has been a focus by Amazon to get developers to focus more on improving quality than launching new skills. The promotions for introducing new skills in the past were commonplace but rare today. The new tools and promotions that Amazon highlights now are more typically about delivering richer user experiences.
However, when you look at developer ecosystems, new app introductions is a measure of productivity and of enthusiasm. As the growth rate subsides, we are not headed toward millions of voice apps as a parallel to millions of mobile apps. The concern should be whether there is waning enthusiasm among developers for the platform and what that might mean in terms of its long-term innovation.
Alexa is widely enough adopted by consumers that there is little risk of smart home device makers abandoning the platform. The question really comes down to how much independent talent will be applied to making the platform more valuable to users. Amazon is clearly investing in making Alexa more capable with new first-party skills. It is worth considering how much help Alexa will receive from third-parties based on the current trends.
Voicebot has been tracking Alexa skills since 2016 and was the first to announce many of the milestones in terms of total skill counts. Over the years we have expanded coverage and more recently we have been fortunate to receive assistance from Voxalyze to increase tracking to 12 countries. Let us know what you think about the state of Alexa skill totals by country.