Uber Opens API in Bid to Be Everywhere
As many expected it would do, Uber announced that it would open its API to all developers — from those tinkering in dorm rooms to United Airlines — in order to be exposed to millions of new users.
United is, in fact, one of the transportation logistics company’s first official partners in integrating the API, or Application Programming Interface, which is defined as a “set of routines, protocols and tools for building software applications.” In easier terms, United’s mobile app, Uber said, will show “fare estimates and ETAs of the closest drivers, so you can get to the airport for less and on time.”
Other companies also integrating the API initially include: Expensify, Hinge, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Momento, OpenTable, Starbucks, Tempo Smart Calendar, Time Out, TripAdvisor and TripCase.
In a blog post, the San Francisco company said: “We’ll never conceive of every great idea, though, and we could certainly never build them all. Enter the Uber API. As of today, we officially open — to all developers — access to many of the primitives that power Uber’s magical experience.”
I am not sure about the magical part — this is primarily just a car service right now, after all. But the ability to embed Uber into apps is key to expansion, an effort which has largely relied on the distribution of its mobile app directly to consumers. Uber has already begun to branch out with an integration with Google Maps — no surprise, since Google Ventures is a big investor in the hot startup.
But not all of Uber’s functionality will be available to all developers as yet. Uber noted: “Apps can pass a destination address to the Uber app, display pickup times, provide fare estimates, access trip history and more. What about requesting a ride? Yes, we’ve implemented that endpoint as well, but because calling it immediately dispatches a real driver in the real world, we’re releasing it in a more controlled fashion, starting with a small set of partners.”
Uber’s SVP of business Emil Michael declined to give any details of financial arrangements with partners, but sources said there will be some lead generation fees sent back to them depending on the rides and revenue generated from the referrals. It is also not clear if the deals with its initial partners are exclusive — meaning Uber demanded that rivals like Lyft not be offered to a partner’s users and integrated into its app.
One partner not announced in today’s API launch is Facebook. As Re/code previously reported, Uber has been in discussions with the the social networking giant about integrating the service into Facebook Messenger. Sources said those talks are still ongoing.
As Jason Del Rey noted:
A similar tie-up between Facebook and Uber could make sense for both sides. Facebook would add a new service that could also potentially help it get more customer payment information on file to build a base of payment credentials for future e-commerce initiatives or money-transfer products. Facebook announced last week that it was testing a “buy” button that would allow users to buy products through an ad or company post.
At the same time, a Facebook partnership would give Uber access to millions of potential new customers — [Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark] Zuckerberg said in April that Messenger had 200 million monthly users.
But the move is an aggressive one into that direction. “We believe that any app with a map is a potential Uber API partner,” wrote Uber in its blog post.
That is, indeed, a lot of partners.
“This is like getting the ‘Like’ button everywhere,” said Michael, who was the key exec working on the deals, referring to Facebook’s ubiquitous link. “Over time who knows where Uber can be and what can be created.”
As to future partners, Michael said that, “there are tons of others lined up behind them … to the extent any app grouping people together, they can use our API.”
Here is Uber’s blog post on the launch:
INTRODUCING THE UBER API
At Uber, our mission is to bring transportation as reliable as running water to everyone, everywhere: Just tap a button, and your car arrives in minutes. While simple on the surface, the seamlessness of the Uber experience belies the enormous complexity that powers it. But now that we have this fundamental capability in place — a capability we like to think of as converting bits to atoms — in over 40 countries around the world, there are so many things we would love to build on top of it. We’ll never conceive of every great idea, though, and we could certainly never build them all.
Enter the Uber API.
As of today, we officially open — to all developers — access to many of the primitives that power Uber’s magical experience. Apps can pass a destination address to the Uber app, display pickup times, provide fare estimates, access trip history and more. What about requesting a ride? Yes, we’ve implemented that endpoint as well, but because calling it immediately dispatches a real driver in the real world, we’re releasing it in a more controlled fashion, starting with a small set of partners. Stay tuned for more on that, and please let us know if you’re interested in being added to the whitelist.
Along with the Uber API, we’re also launching our new Affiliate Program, which enables developers to earn credits toward free Uber rides.
We believe that any app with a map is a potential Uber API partner. To kick things off, we’re launching with 11 fantastic companies, all of whom have already integrated with the API and are rolling out in cities around the world: Expensify, Hinge, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Momento, OpenTable, Starbucks Coffee Company, Tempo Smart Calendar, Time Out, TripAdvisor, TripCase and United Airlines.
Here are just a few examples of how our partner apps are making it even easier to get where you want to go with Uber:
Dinner date? Request an Uber to your favorite restaurant right from the OpenTable app. Your driver will arrive already knowing where you are headed.
Catching a flight? The United mobile app shows fare estimates and ETAs of the closest drivers, so you can get to the airport for less and on time.
Night out? Time Out shows different Uber options – from low-cost to luxury – so you can be sure to arrive in style to the city’s best nightlife.
Need a place to stay? Book a room through the Hyatt Hotels & Resorts app and request a ride to your hotel right from the reservation screen.
Want a recap of your journey? Use Momento to view a timeline of your Uber trip history alongside other moments in your life.
To celebrate the launch of our API, for a limited time, our partners are offering new Uber users up to $30 USD off their first ride (discount varies by country).
As excited as we are about this launch, we’re truly just getting started. Our team will continue working to add functionality, provide support, address feedback and deliver even more value to our developers.
We are so looking forward to being surprised by the awesome stuff you build on top of the Uber API! #bitstoatoms
Learn more about the Uber API and our affiliate program at developer.uber.com. Check out our sample app on GitHub and ask us questions on Stack Overflow.