With API, Uber sends message to developers: Let's work together

Uber announced Wednesday an API that lets developers integrate their companies' apps with Uber's services. 

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters/File
Transportation app Uber is seen on the iPhone of limousine driver Shuki Zanna, 49, in Beverly Hills, Calif., Dec. 19, 2013.

Need an Uber ride to the airport? Taking an Uber to the night club? How about finding a ride to Starbucks? 

These are questions Uber, the popular ride-sharing company, wants to answer more easily with the announcement of its API that will let developers tie their companies' apps to Uber's services. 

"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," reads an Uber blog post announcing the API. 

Essentially, this means that apps you might use for, say, finding a restaurant or planning a trip can now incorporate Uber into their services. So if you're checking in for a flight with the United Airlines app, it could give you the option of taking Uber to the airport. And once you've arrived at your destination and are checking into your hotel on your smart phone, and that hotel happens to be a Hyatt, the Hyatt app could give you the option of taking an Uber to its hotel's location. 

In addition to United and Hyatt, Uber is launching its API with nine other companies, including Expensify, Hinge, Momento, OpenTable, Starbucks Coffee Company, Tempo Smart Calendar, Time Out, TripAdvisor, and TripCase. Uber hopes more will follow soon. 

To begin the trend of using Uber through these separate apps, Uber is offering users $30 off their first ride through these third-party apps.  

"We think this is huge for us," Uber senior vice president of business Emil Michael told TechCrunch

Uber is offering online tutorials to teach developers how to integrate with Uber. It is also giving benefits to companies that sync with Uber, such as $5 in Uber credit for every new rider provided by a third-party app. 

This is not the first time Uber has linked its service with third-party apps. In May, it integrated with Google Maps, meaning an option to take an Uber ride appears when users who have the Uber app search for directions through the Google Maps app on their smart phones.

The five-year-old San Francisco-based company has expanded rapidly and widely to include operations in more than 100 cities in 43 different countries around the world. 

But its expansion has come with growing pains and, in numerous cases, hostility toward the company's disruptive practices. Protests from taxi drivers around the world have sprouted up to voice their opposition to a company they say is threatening their livelihoods. In some cities, as in Berlin, Uber has been banned outright. 

To aid in its continual transition from start-up to major force in the global transportation industry, Uber announced Tuesday that former top Obama adviser and campaign manager David Plouffe will be joining the company as senior vice president of policy and strategy. 

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