digisam avatar image
digisam asked ·

What is the point of the built in library, why developer preview for over 3.5 years?

I can't be bothered to update the numbers below as I have lost interest. It is clear that there are somethings that will only ever be available to US developers and there are no plans to change that situation.

December 2016, it sounds like the distant past, but that is how long it has been.


The Built-in Library was released in the US as a "Developer Preview" over TWO YEARS ago.

Only US English Skills can use the 145 Intents

Rest of World gets the standard 22

"Reach wider audiences"

There is lots of news about Amazon releasing the Echo in more and more countries, and supporting more languages. The big idea being developers can reach wider audiences etc

These are two quotes from the same article talking about the Australia/New Zealand launch

This will open up new opportunities for developers in Australia, New Zealand, and worldwide to build for Alexa and reach customers through voice-first experiences using the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) and the Alexa Voice Service (AVS). Starting today, developers can build experiences for customers in Australia and New Zealand using the Alexa Skills Kit.

If you’re already an Alexa developer and want to target new customers in Australia and New Zealand, you can enhance your existing skill by extending support for the new language model English (Australia) by following these simple steps.

Sounds great? But as far as I can see, this is not true.

Skills made using any of the 145 Built-in Intents will not work outside of US English without significant amounts of effort required to write "work arounds" for each Intent.

Hardly as simple as selecting the correct language in the Skill Configuration page.

(and I won't even go into the Literal Slot type issue)

Existing US Skills will not get rewritten

New developers get put off

Anyone looking to get into developing a Skill will read about the Built-ins in the official docs and tutorials as if they are features available to them (often the US only requirement is hidden away if mentioned at all), when they learn they can't use these features they are put off developing at all with a "what's the point" attitude, or will "wait and see" if they will ever get access.

Localisation issues?

I don't see how this can be a simple "localisation" issue (dealing with translating languages, differing accents etc).

It can not possibly take over a year to convert something in US English over to UK English.

And if it does take this long and Amazon have been working on it for over a year to implement the US/UK differences, then what hope is there for India English? Let alone full translations for DE and Japan.

Is the Built-in Library going to be dropped?

It's been in Developer Preview for over a year with no changes, there has not been any indication that it is still being worked on.

Is it something we need to worry about?

Will it get replaced by something new, and will the something new work in all territories? Even it that is the case, US will still be able to use the old Built-in Library forever so will not bother converting their Skills over.

This is what happened with the Literal Slot type, it was going to be depreciated, as such UK/DE never had access as it was "old tech" when Echo was launched in these countries.

Then Amazon changed their mind, allowed US to continue using it, yet didn't enable it anywhere else.

Whilst Custom Slots are better, by supporting the old methods Amazon give no reason for a developer to make their Skill compatible, and therefore it will be incompatible with the rest of the world.

alexa skills kitbuilt-in library
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Have passed this feedback on along with your 'growing gap' thread.

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digisam avatar image digisam Jamie Grossman ♦♦ ·

Thanks, it was more of a question rather than feedback.

I won't hold my breath (and I honestly don't want to appear rude) but you passed on the feedback in February when apparently the team were "working as hard as they can to address the issue".

Amazon should really think more about being a bit more open and start communicating back and forth. Especially with the people who are making the things that customers buy Echos to use.

I would love to understand more about the reasons why things are what they are. I am not asking for release dates, I am well aware why you don't. But I am struggling to understand why the following situation exists.

For US developers:

  • Amazon encourage developers in the US (admittedly their biggest user base) to use a set of tools when building their Skills.
  • Amazon release Echo in more and more countries
  • Amazon tell the same developers that they can now reach a wider audience
  • But only if they have not developed their Skills using the tools Amazon are encouraging them to use.

Then for the new countries that get Echo

  • Amazon puts on workshops and tours to encourage developers to use the platform
  • Amazon direct developers to the official developer site for tutorials and comprehensive docs
  • Tutorials and guides talk about specific tools that make life easier (specifically in this example the Built-in Library)
  • Developers get to a point where they discover that they don't have access to the tools they are being instructed to use
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meep avatar image
meep answered ·

I've been holding out for months and months in the vain hope that Amazon will extend their built-ins to other languages.

Instead, as you point out, they extend into new territories with a hobbled developer experience. As someone who is not a US based and with more potential users outside the US than in, I have an awareness of the world at large and am frustrated by the approach taken here.

Please fix the stuff that's wrong and the gaps in the existing languages before extending into more.

In my own case, I just need access to the extended music built-ins to help with identifying artists, song titles, albums and the like - a lot more universal than addresses or personal names.

Please flick the switch, Amazon

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angelblue05 avatar image
angelblue05 answered ·

You had the edge Amazon, but here is my honest review of things as they are. I've played around with Google Home and it's like, miles better than what Alexa offers. Especially in terms of language and built-in libraries. I mean, they have everything and more in Google Home and it's available in +200 languages... I don't know what's taking the Alexa team so long to add built-in libraries in other languages but it seems you lost this battle. As a developer, I've lost interest in Alexa because 1. It's impossible to build what I want in other languages. 2. Raw speech, even limited is not available. So we have no choice but to deal with this frustrating custom list that work but not really. You said it was a replacement for literal speech but that's an overstatement. 3. Dev support is painfully slow. Forget getting any support on the weekend either, there is none.

I used to think Alexa was pretty good until I saw what's on the other side. What are you guys waiting for? I may very well tell my users to get a google home mini just to make my life easier. Sorry if I'm a bit harsh, I just want you guys to realize what's at stake. Wake up and extend those libraries in other languages. Listen to us.

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