Uber’s goal to bring accessible, reliable transportation to everyone, everywhere led the company to release its API in 2014 to enable a whole range of third-party integrations. In a recent article on TechCrunch, Gordon Wintrob spoke to Andrew Noonan, Partner Engineer at Uber, about the API platform’s three pillars; utility, revenue, and distribution.
After the initial release, Uber began addressing the platform’s utility with additional endpoints to ensure third-party apps are more useful with Uber integration. The app’s transactional nature meant they had little concern in exposing the full utility of the service since developers wouldn’t be able to recreate the full Uber experience, but any app can now have an Uber mode.
The team at Uber understood the importance of revenue. “If you’re asking developers to write apps using your platform, they have to be able to pay the bills,”, said Noonan. The API was seen as a growth factor for Uber in established and emerging markets, so to incentivise developers to sign up new riders, they created the affiliate program. For every new rider signed up, the developer gets paid $5. This model has benefitted Uber and been successful for its partners, but the company continues to promote further innovation on the platform.
Finally, third-party apps with any form of business model will require distribution, and Uber’s Trip Experiences gives developers access to a resource within Uber that the company itself is not particularly experienced with or interested in exploiting. Rather, they are exposing that resource via an API and letting others iterate on top of it to create real value for users.
According to Noonan, the Uber API’s scalability is possible because the backend is broken down into microservices that communicate over their efficient, open-sourced protocol TChannel. This infrastructure has been vital in supporting the ever-growing developer community built on asking developers for feedback, and listening to what they have to say.