Uber is already available in 150 cities and nearly 50 countries around the globe, but now the ride-sharing app wants to spread throughout the virtual world. On Wednesday, the company announced that it was making an Uber application programming interface (API) available for developers, allowing them to embed Uber functionality right inside third-party apps.
The API lets third-party apps tap into Uber's data to display estimated pickup times, provide fare estimates, show your trip history, or pass destination addresses to the Uber app itself. That last bit brings up an interesting point; Uber says it has included a "Request a ride" function in its API, but since it summons an Uber driver immediately, the company is doling out access to that particular feature slowly, and only to select yet-to-be-named partners.
Speaking of partners, these 11 apps are adding support for the Uber API today, though the technology is now available to all developers:
- Hyatt Hotels & Resorts
- Starbucks Coffee Company
- Tempo Smart Calendar
- Time Out
- United Airlines
While the Uber blog post announcing the API is full of high-falutin' talking about "converting bits to atoms" and declaring that "any app with a map is a potential Uber API partner," the reality seems more practical. Uber's examples are pretty much all ways to get you to predestined appointments, be it by hailing an Uber to bring you to your dinner reservation via the OpenTable app, using the United Airlines app to see surrounding Ubers and their ETA to your airport, or requesting a ride to your hotel or next meeting from within the Hyatt and Tempo Smart Calendar apps, respectively.
Sure, it sounds basic, but the Uber API checks all the boxes you could ask for: It helps you find an Uber faster, from directly within the app you're already using, while pulling information from your app so you don't have to manually put in the destination yourself. To sweeten the deal, Uber is offering new users a $30 credit when they sign up for the service via a third-party app.
One intriguing twist with the Uber API comes from the Momento app, which taps into your Uber travel history to show where you've wandered, alongside that app's usual diary-like features.
It'll be interesting to see if other developers will be able to puzzle out ways to use the API for more than merely summoning rides. It'll also be interesting to see if companies like Hyatt and United further partner with Uber to offer discount rides in exchange for using their services.
"This is like getting the Like button everywhere," Uber's senior vice president of business Emil Michael told Recode. "Over time who knows where Uber can be and what can be created?"
But right now, the launch of the Uber API makes it even easier for people--mostly city dwellers--to catch a quick ride when one is needed. That's nothing but good news for you, me, Uber, and the developers whose apps can now deliver an even more helpful experience. Lyft drivers probably won't be too happy about it, though.