Uber aims to be a platform

You may think of Uber as a disruptive player in the hire-car business. They offer a service similar to taxis, but enabled with an app experience that riders really appreciate. The hailing and pay-by-phone experience is something that I personally love. I love knowing where the driver is, how long it’ll take to arrive, the ease of paying, and so on.

But now Uber is launching an API. They’re aware that disruption is not simply something they dish out to others, but that they are also subject to disruption. They cannot afford to stand still.

Uber has a key asset – a network of drivers available on a for-hire basis. By exposing that asset programmatically via an API, Uber turns itself from simply a taxi service with an app, into a people-and-goods delivery platform upon which other companies can build their businesses. Pharmacies are a key potential partner – think of Prescription delivery services for people with limited mobility. Uber can act as a personalized delivery service for any high-value retail good.

Or think of personal concierge services – what if you could build an app to request a car to any location on behalf of a VIP or a person you’re trying to impress?

Uber have announced 11 partners at the launch of their public API. Obviously the market is interested in building new businesses or expanding existing businesses in partnership with them.

The beautiful thing about APIs is that any business can expose their capabilities programmatically to transform into a “platform”. That means greater reach, more partnerships, lower cost of business development, better return on assets.

Think back: this is exactly the kind of nirvana we in the industry were envisioning, 15 years ago, when we created SOAP and all the WS-* specifications. But we went too far out on the complexity-vs-value spectrum. It turns out the WS-SecureConversation spec was not the key concept that would enable flexible business partnerships. We now realize that simplicity of design and ease of programmability are the keys to unlock the possibilities in this domain. I’m so glad that time has arrived!

What’s the basis for your platform?


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