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When considering ordering a cab, what app will you most probably use? We bet the answer is Uber. Uber has revolutionized the world of transportation services and has become a role model for its followers in the market. It has changed how people travel in their area, confidently replacing traditional taxi services.
You no longer have to look for cab numbers or stand in the street trying to catch a car; everything is now in your pocket. All you need to do is open the app, select your location and where you’re going, and confirm the order.
The question is: how has Uber become so successful in such a competitive market? We know the answer. The powerful Uber tech stack, and flawless software architecture, are what allow people to enjoy the super-convenient taxi services, and why the company is on top in the industry.
It’s no surprise that more and more people are wondering how to create an app as successful as Uber and how to become a household name. Even though it’s unlikely that another taxi service will outperform Uber, it is more than possible to gain inspiration from its business case. and examine the smart use of programming languages and technologies for your own transportation business.
At IntelliSoft, we know how to develop a flawless transportation application and help clients overcome related obstacles. Our virtuoso team of developers has already helped a lot of clients from the transportation industry, including SpecTec and Ingram Barge.
For SpecTech, we worked on architecture refactoring, re-implementation of the data access layer, offline data synchronization, and other features that helped ensure the app fully functioned online and offline. For Ingram Barge, we created a custom fleet management and freight-tracking web app for visualizing and managing barges in fleets.
Our years of experience and our skillful team allow us to take even the most complicated challenges and offer unique, creative solutions for our clients, and we will be thrilled to help develop an application like Uber.
In this article, we will uncover how does Uber work and what is the Uber app’s secret to success, focusing on Uber’s tech stack and architecture. You’ll learn about Uber’s history, what technology does Uber use, whether it is possible to build an app like Uber (a little spoiler: it is), and what steps to follow to develop this app. Get ready to dive into the world of the most acknowledged cab service and find out more about Uber architecture.
Table of Contents
Intro to Uber: a brief history
Before getting into all the technical detail and Uber architecture, let’s talk about the history of the company, as this will help you better understand its path to global recognition.
Founded in 2009 by Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick, Uber was born from the idea that traditional taxi services were outdated. The two founders wanted to introduce a groundbreaking new project – a more reliable way of getting around with the help of technology in one’s pocket.
The first version of Uber was called UberCab, and it was launched in 2010 in San Francisco. It worked almost as it does now: a person opened the app, requested a ride, and paid for it through their smartphone, and the price for the ride was calculated based on the time and distance. Nothing new for us now, but back then, it was a cutting-edge solution.
Who were the Uber drivers back then? Ordinary people with their own cars signed up to provide rides to users either as part-time or full-time jobs. There was no delivery option back then, and no one knew what Uber Connect was.
It didn’t take long before Uber wasn’t just a San Francisco cab service. Soon, people all over the US started using it, and it expanded to a worldwide audience. However, traditional taxis were still dominating the market and this was the first harsh reality Uber faced: the established taxi companies were not accepting the new business model proposed by Uber.
Other challenges that Uber faced included controversy around its safety regulations, regulatory compliance, and labor practices. Still, Uber’s innovative features, such as cashless payments and real-time location tracking, captured the hearts of millions of users back then.
How does the Uber app work?
Uber is all about data. From the moment a user registers in the app, makes a ride request to the end of the ride, and feedback – all of these actions generate massive amounts of data. This includes information about the passenger, their location, credit card, drivers nearby, driver reviews and ratings, car details, and the cost based on the distance and time. Imagine having to collect, store, and analyze all this information efficiently. Seems extremely challenging, but Uber does it seamlessly.
Uber stores all this data in its databases right after the user takes the first action. Then it processes the ride requests, using the matching algorithm to match the person to a driver nearby. It sends the request to all drivers nearby until one of them accepts the request.
However, Uber is way more complicated than that, as it consists of numerous technologies cooperating and contributing to the life of the overall app.
- Mobile app development: Uber is built with mobile-friendliness in mind. It has been built using mobile app development technologies, mainly iOS and Android development frameworks, to ensure an intuitive, user-friendly experience both for drivers and riders.
- Real-time data processing: The application uses real-time data processing to ensure that both the riders and drivers are informed about the estimated ride and arrival time.. This technology collects information from GPS sensors, real-time traffic data, and more.
- GPS tracking: Uber tracks the location of both the rider and driver using GPS-tracking technologies. As a result, both can receive real-time location updates and see the car moving on the map.
- Payment processing: Uber’s technologies allow riders to pay for rides using a stored credit card. This makes the payment process more secure because the rider’s money is stored in the system and is automatically returned in case the ride is canceled. Moreover, Uber uses integration with payment processing providers and implements data storage and encryption.
- Machine learning: To optimize its ride matching and pricing, Uber uses machine learning algorithms. They analyze data based on rider behavior, typical rides they take, driver availability, and patterns in city traffic to improve the ride experience and provide more customized solutions.
- Cloud infrastructure: Uber runs on a cloud-based infrastructure, allowing it to scale fast and process large volumes of data easily.
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How difficult is it to build an app like Uber?
If you’ve been thinking that building an app like Uber is challenging, then you’re right. Building such a complex app requires a lot of effort, money, expertise, and resources. In today’s merciless competitive market, with numerous apps similar to Uber, building a taxi service application is a huge undertaking, with several factors making it difficult.
- Technological sophistication
To process the large amounts of information that Uber stores, it needs to use sophisticated ML and data analytics platforms built in-house. Real-time data processing, GPS tracking, mobile app development, payment processing, and other technologies demand extensive expertise and experience in their development and integration. Therefore, you would need a team ready to handle all the technical difficulties and create a seamless, user-friendly app.
- Compliance with regulations
Building an app like Uber requires you to comply with evolving and constantly changing rules and regulations. Therefore, it is vital to understand these rules and be able to comply with them, or else you won’t be able to release the app.
- Obligatory scalability
Ride-sharing services should be able to handle large volumes of data and scale up according to changing requirements. The more people will use your app and the more it grows, the more scalable it should be. It can be an issue for some business owners because building a scalable infrastructure requires a lot of effort, time, and money.
- Safety and security
Apps that collect personal information about users should be extra secure and safe. This should be your top priority when building an app like Uber. It involves checking the drivers’ background, tracking rides, ensuring that payments are secure and that all user data is protected against data breaches and other unexpected issues.
- Saturated market
When Uber entered the market in 2010, it was competing only with traditional taxi service providers. Now, there are numerous similar players who are competing for market share. Entering such a saturated market is not an easy task, so you need to understand the trends in the market, and its landscape, research your competitors thoroughly, and be able to provide unique solutions that, right now, have no alternatives.
- Expensive venture
If anyone tells you that developing an app like Uber is not expensive – do not believe them. It is a costly endeavor because of the technologies used, the need to work with an experienced development team, and the need to build a scalable infrastructure.
When Uber was built in 2009, it was built on the “monolithic” software architecture model. It had backend and frontend services and a single database. The development team used Python, its frameworks, and SQLAlchemy.
At first, this architecture was enough. It was able to handle a small number of trips in a limited number of cities. However, Uber grew quickly, and when the service was introduced in other cities, the team decided that it’s time to switch to a different architecture type.
In 2014, Uber switched to “service-oriented architecture” or a microservice architecture model, which now allows it to handle food delivery and cargo.
This architecture consists of small independent services, each performing its own business function. Each of the business services is built on a tech stack that is most suited for its function.
All of the apps are available over the network via an applicable interface (API). Since microservice architecture allows the deployment of new code independently, the system can scale up easier. Let’s take a look at the Uber architecture diagram.
Even though microservice architecture was a huge success, the team decided to go even further and apply a whole new approach called DOMA (Domain-Oriented System Architecture). This approach, shown in the Uber architecture diagram, differs from the previous architecture because the system design here is oriented around collections of underlying services called domains.
These domains are then added to different collections called layers. These layers define what dependencies the Uber microservices architecture from various domains are allowed to handle.
This hierarchy of Uber microservices architecture components is called a layered design. Using a Gateway API, the developers made each domain independent from the other, allowing them to have their unique logic and not be related to other domains.
To allow each domain to grow and extend, developers created an extension architecture to each domain, making the microservice architecture less complicated by breaking it down into smaller parts. These Uber microservices parts are more flexible, layered, and reusable.
Uber’s UI framework
Uber is growing, with new features added continuously, so there’s a constant need for changing the design of the app and Uber microservices. Editing the app’s look takes a lot of time and effort, so the designers use a web React UI framework called Base.
This Uber system design includes pre-designed Uber app elements such as typography, colors, grids, buttons, lists, and iconography. Having them all in one place and ready to use, makes the process of Uber design system much faster and streamlines the process of implementing new features. Moreover, designers don’t have to worry that some elements won’t maintain UI/UX standards or Uber requirements.
Now, after we revealed Uber’s system design, let’s focus on the Uber’s tech stack.
Uber tech stack
In 2014, Uber’s team used Python, Mongo, and MySQL to build the app’s backend and Node.js and Redis for a dispatch system. Mobile apps were running on Java and Objective-C, and Backbone.js was used for the website.
However, as the app was growing, so did the business requirements. The development team couldn’t leave everything as it was, so it was time to change almost all of its components.
- Marketplace technologies stack
The Uber Marketplace is where Uber drivers connect to users who are looking for rides in their area. It includes data analytics and data streaming functionality. The marketplace has its own dedicated development team, consisting of a data team, an integrations team, and frontend and backend engineers. The technologies used in the marketplace are Python, Node, Go, and Java.
The marketplace’s backbone is the trip execution engine. The development team uses Node.js runtime environment to manage multiple concurrent connections ensuring high security and scalability. Go was used to provide flawless efficiency, safety, and compatibility with the new services in the company.
The frontline API is used to direct requests from drivers and passengers’ devices to other APIs and services. It was written in Node.js, and the team used an NGINX frontend to deal with authentication through SLL encryption. Finally, the team used Longtron (a modern open-source module) to enable connections between internal infrastructure components, such as Kafka, disk, and the Node.js client for statistics.
Real-time connection is ensured by using Ringpop – a library for building cooperative distributed systems. It helps meet the highest availability demands for online operations, granting developers access to a highly-available, partition-tolerated connection with distributed databases (DynamoDB or Riak).
The matching algorithm is written with the help of Node.js and Go. It manages alerts from drivers and riders and then matches them. Riak is their distributed database, while Redis offers caching possibilities.
Dynamic pricing optimization is possible thanks to Flask and uWSGI. Uber architects use this stack for management and optimization through intelligent matching, supply positioning, and dynamic pricing. However, now the developers are replacing most Python with Go for higher performance.
Data streaming and machine learning are achieved through the use of Kafka, Hive, MapReduce, HDFS, Elasticsearch, file storage web services, and production databases. Uber has also developed its own LIDAR (the Ledger of Interactive Data Analysis) for internal sharing. The LIDAR runs Jupyter integrated with Apache Spark and its own data platform.
Uber also has its own ML platform. They wanted to scale ML across the company in 2015 while avoiding ML anti-patterns and standardizing workflows and tools. In 2017, they announced their own ML platform, Michelangelo. It is an ML and AI platform that covers the ML workflow from start to finish: it helps manage data, train, evaluate, make predictions, deploy models, and monitor forecasts.
- Web app tech stack
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- Mobile app tech stack (Android and iOS)
Both iOS and Android operating systems have two applications: for drivers and riders. Android apps were built with Java, and iOS apps were built with Swift and Objective-C. The development team also used a number of other technologies:
Android App Tech Stack:
- Gradle – a building system for Android apps
- OkHttp, Retrofit, Gson – ensure networking
- Dagger – a dependency injection network
- Butter Knife – powers views and callbacks to fields and methods via annotation processing
- Picasso – used for image loading
- Espresso – provides native automation code writing
- Timber – used for logging
iOS App Tech Stack:
- Buck – powers a mono repo for storing iOS app code
- SnapKit and Masonry – used for components building and scaling
- KSCrash – the internal reporting framework that detects and reports crashes
- OCMock – used for testing Objective-C code
What programming languages to use when creating an app like Uber?
There’s a long list of programming languages you can use to build an app like Uber. Let’s take a look at them:
- Python – for a web-based booking app
- Node.js – for the Marketplace app
- Go – for improved performance and speed
- Java – for third-party service integrations
- Browserify – for client-side bundling
- Apache Hive data warehouse – for data query and analytics
- ELk – for processes, shipping, and storing logs
- Apache Cassandra – to manage huge volumes of data
- MySQL Database Service – for relational database management
- Docker – for data center infrastructure
- HAProxy – for proxy server and load banner
These are not all of the technology stack examples that can be used to build an app like Uber. Moreover, using the same frameworks and programming languages does not guarantee you success.
The thing is, the company uses a market-driven approach, adding only those features that users need. Thus, you can follow the same approach: start small and scale up and add new features gradually. There’s no need to use a lot of technologies and programming languages; the simpler – the better.
Requirements for Uber-like projects
When building an app like Uber, tech stack and architecture are not the only important points you should consider. Let’s look at other requirements for Uber-like projects:
- Simple UI/UX
The app should be as simple and intuitive as possible, both for riders and drivers. Every time a new feature is added, designers should adjust the app accordingly. This is why the company has its own UI framework.
- Microservice architecture
The microservice architecture allows the app to grow and scale up easily; this is why Uber has switched from a monolithic to a microservice architecture.
- Streaming services
Most of Uber’s functionalities operate in real-time, requiring significant computing power, and a tech stack that is fast and operated without downtime. To handle all these operations, Uber switched from using on-premise hosting servers to hosting its infrastructure on cloud hosting with a dedicated network. It helps streamline operations and handle huge volumes of data.
- Cloud storage
The tons of data generated from working in different locations, and serving millions of users, needs to be securely stored somewhere. For this reason, Uber leverages its cloud storage.
The development process
The development process of an app like Uber depends on your budget, business, needs and requirements, and the development team. Here’s the general development process of an Uber-like application.
- Hire software developers
The first step of application development is hiring a software development team. At IntelliSoft, for example, a dedicated team of developers is created based on your requirements, expectations, and desires. It consists of programmers, analysts, managers, etc. When choosing a dedicated team, ensure that they have experience developing projects like yours, understand your goals and needs clearly, and are on the same page as you.
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By hiring software developers, you get access to a large tech talent pool, boost your development capacity, and reduce expenses and time spent on recruitment.
- Run product discovery session
The next step is running a product discovery session. The discovery phase is the beginning of a development project – it involves validating the market, analyzing competitors, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and understanding your target audience. The product discovery session provides a detailed analysis by a team of experts that can transform your idea into a clear product vision.
- Write software requirement specification
Software requirements specification (SRS) helps the development team claerly understand what they are supposed to build. An SRS document describes what the software will do, and how it is expected to perform. It also describes the functionality the product needs to meet the needs of all parties (businesses and users).
SRS should include the four Ds: Define the product’s purpose; Describe what you are building; Detail the requirements; Deliver it for approval.
- Prioritize features
Let’s say you have created a list of features you want your product to have. Does this mean that you should add all of them at once? Definitely not. Some features are more important than others and should be prioritized at the initial stages of development. Some features take more time, money and effort to implement, and you should only add them once you have at least released an MVP and collected feedback. Moreover, you can always add more features when your app is released.
- Develop MVP
The next step is developing an MVP. A Minimum Viable Product helps you determine your potential in the market. It is a working version of your product with a set of basic features that helps you validate your idea, optimize your budget, shorten the product’s time-to-market, and collect user feedback for improvement of the product.
- Design and implement the user’s interface
The interface of your app is the bridge between the user and the system, the face of your product. The key here is to build a user-friendly, intuitive interface that provides a seamless user experience. The key to a great interface is to make sure that it is predictable, minimalistic, loads quickly, shows all essential options, and allows the user to connect with customer support. Moreover, don’t forget to follow the current trends and create Ui that is visually appealing.
- Integrate third-party services
Third-party services include maps, messaging services, payment gateways, etc. This helps enhance your app’s functionality and attract more potential users.
If you have been wondering whether it is possible to build another app like Uber – the answer is yes. But why build another Uber if you can use it as an inspiration for your unique project that offers users something other services don’t? Hopefully, this article has helped you uncover the secrets of the Uber tech stack and architecture, and now you know which path to take in your project development. Always remember not to simply copy, but rather, be as authentic and original as possible because that’s what attracts potential users and improves your brand image. If you have been thinking about developing a ride-sharing application like Uber and need a consultation or a development team who can handle this task, contact us.
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