Lyft is taking the fight straight to Uber's front door. The company launched the Lyft Developer Program today alongside a refreshed API that makes it easy for developers to add Lyft functionality to mobile apps. Lyft is dipping its toe into these waters slowly. It has a single launch partner and only a few other initial developer invitees. If everything runs smoothly, Lyft will expand the program to all developers.
Uber has courted developers aggressively over the last 18 months. Uber's API has allowed developers to stick the "Hail an Uber" button into all manner of apps. Partners such as United Airlines were quick to integrate Uber it to their own offerings, allowing smartphone users to check into their flight and hitch a lift to the airport with a single button press. Lyft has trailed in offering developers this capability, but the Lyft Developer Program is a step in the right direction.
Lyft's API has long been private. It partnered with Slack and Starbucks last year, but functionality is extremely limited. Lyft's new tie-up with Facebook Messenger provides a much more direct path to consumers' (and developers') doors.
Messenger users will be able to converse with their friends, make plans, and request a Lyft without leaving the Messenger app. Users need only tap the "Transportation" option to select Lyft.
Speaking of transportation, Lyft believes matching its service to other types of transportation services will be key. "Across the country, nearly a quarter of all Lyft rides start or end near transit stations. Using Lyft has become just as core to getting around many urban areas as riding the subway," said the company in a blog post. Companies including RideScout, GlobeSherpa, and Citymapper are helping place Lyft data on cities' transit apps. Initial functionality targets US-based transportation from coast to coast, but Lyft is eyeing international expansion. Partnerships with Didi, Grab, and OIa, will help travelers in China, India, and Southeast Asia.
The API's core functions allow consumers to review plenty of detail, even when accessed through a secondary app. For example, people will be able to see the different ride types available in each city, see price estimates for each trip, as well as see real-time information on routes and ETAs. On the developer side of the equation, app writers can design and built customized request flows and receive ride status updates through webhooks. "Our API is what makes it happen, and brings the same seamless, cashless experience to Lyft passengers no matter where they want to ride, while delivering even more rides to drivers," said Lyft.
Lyft admits its initial foray with transportation apps speaks to its core partners, but it hopes to see "clever, helpful, innovative new ways to request a Lyft" come from the developer community at large. The company is open to dating apps, dining apps, sports apps, finance apps, and more. Lyft says hackathons, and other programs are on deck for the near future. Developers seeking an alternative to Uber may be wise to check out Lyft's new offering. More details are available here.