The Concierge service was launched in September 2011. Its free customer support service helps ingoing visitors check the weather forecast, choose and rent accommodations, find stores to go shopping to and book tickets for concerts, museums or sporting events. The “concierges” are also qualified to handle car rental, airport transfers and more.
Airbnb Concierge consults foreign visitors on rules of stay, finding embassies and even filling out reports to the police. Airbnb Concierge also promises to expand into the medical field, planning on handling drug prescriptions, locating nearby doctors and hospitals and calling up ambulances. To use these services all you have to do is dial the phone number provided by the home owner.
In the end of 2012 Airbnb began to gradually change into a service that does more than simply help you find vacant lodging in the city of your choice and started to put the emphasis on travel tips and advice. Neighborhoods is a travel guide that lets everyone choose their perfect spot with the help of a huge variety of filters and parameters like transport, meals, nightlife, tourist appeal and many more. The Airbnb team manually tags locations in the city, invites local editors to manage content and employs street photographers to provide images for the service.
The teams of Nabewise and Localmind startups, both acquired by Airbnb, had a hand in the creation of this service as well. Nabewise used to be a travel guide and an info aggregator, while Localmind was a service that allowed users to ask the locals for information.
Airbnb launched the Local Lounges project in November 2012, simultaneously with Neighborhoods, having chosen San Francisco as the pilot city. The way it works is this: the visitor comes to any establishment with a blue Local Lounges sticker and gets comprehensive advice on places to visit in the city, as well as a guidebook from the Airbnb team. At first, ten cafes were selected to serve as hubs for San Francisco visitors. These establishments were required to be open 24/7 and provide stable Wi-Fi connection. Airbnb planned to later spread this project to all national and international product presence markets. Together with Local Lists, it was meant to demonstrate that Airbnb was actually beneficial to the local economy, as a response to hoteliers’ complaining that AirBnb was a threat to local budget, draining tax revenue generated by the hotel businesses.
Action is an expansion program in cities with the largest Airbnb presence. Airbnb no longer positions itself as a mere product; it claims to be a social phenomenon, a community with a uniform worldview. For instance, in Berlin, where the authorities prohibited to rent out flats using online services without a special permit from the 1st of May at risk of a 100 000€ fine, 17 landlords consolidated for a protest in front of the city hall. The event was covered in detail on the Airbnb website.
Moreover, the company has started to publish reports on their presence in the largest cities with detailed economic layouts. For example, 3000 home owners in Los Angeles admitted that if it weren’t for AirBnb, they would have lost their residential property to mortgage debt or even been evicted for nonpayment.
In 2012 the destructive Sandy hurricane swept through the USA, causing the most damage in the Northeastern States. The Airbnb company did not sit idly by and opened up the airbnb.com/sandy subsite that offered free lodging for those affected by the disaster. This noble undertaking has now grown into the special emergency assistance program called Disaster Response. Airbnb made it possible to give shelter to the victims of massive fires in San Diego, floods in the Balkan Peninsula that hit the inhabitants of Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, floods in London, Sardinia and the American state of Colorado, earthquakes on the Greek island of Kefalonia and ice storms in Toronto and Atlanta.
When a disaster happens, Airbnb activates the program and starts to automatically send out emails with requests for assistance to all landlords on the affected territory. All booking done through Airbnb on the affected territory is made free of charge and home owners are given access to a 24/7 support service, a guarantee system and several other service options. In addition, Airbnb uses its own communication channels to inform both hosts and guests that it’s possible to get or give help during a cataclysm. Volunteer organizations that cooperate with Airbnb can pre-emptively pick the hosts that are ready to assist in an emergency.
Host Home и Get Mobile
In 2013 Airbnb developed a mobile app update called Host Home that offered a new approach to using home owner services with the help of a gadget. For example, home owners could use their smartphones to get a free photo shoot of their apartments done by professional photographers. The app’s design was revised to reduce the entire rental process to one screen, eliminating the need to switch. Host Home also gives home owners advice on individual approach to their guests. The Get Mobile program is aimed at increasing the amount of mobile users and even used to offer home owners financial help in purchasing the gadgets.
Business Travel is a program for corporate clients that allows to reserve accommodations outfitted for business visitors at their companies’ expense. It can be used to book residences for staff parties and workshops or organize group lodging in a house, a villa or a condo for a large number of employees. The accommodations have five-star ratings in at least 60% of the cases and are highly praised for their cleanliness and the general impression they make; the lodgings also usually match their descriptions perfectly. The apartments include all sorts of major and minor conveniences like Wi-Fi, workplaces, smoke and carbon monoxide sensors, personal care items and towels, irons, hangers, hair dryers, shampoo and so on.
As part of the program, customers are given a special dashboard that lets them manage business trips and corporate events for their employees and get detailed financial statistics, compile expense reports and generally have an easier time keeping their books. There is also a dedicated phone line that employees or employers can use to ask for help.
The program was launched way back in 2014, but its extensive development took place only a year later thanks to Marc McCabe, the renowned Silicon Valley HR expert and head of the business travel group at Airbnb, when the amount of corporate clients (including big players like Google, Salesforce.com, SoundCloud and VoxMedia) exceeded 250 companies. By that moment, the system of issuing coupons for employees that entailed tedious invoicing and Excel report preparation grew so cumbersome that Airbnb was forced to develop a better technological solution.
Airbnb estimated that corporate deals account for 10% of their whole business operations and set out to develop this segment further, spurred by the knowledge that the business travel market in the USA amounted to 302.7$ billion by the end of 2015 (and 292$ billion in 2014).
In June 2016 a closed beta test of City Host was launched. City Host is a program that allows you to explore local landmarks with the help of a personal tour guide. The first cities to be included in City Host were San Francisco, London, Los Angeles, Paris and Tokyo. 36 tours are available from the start, from surfing in San Francisco and Vietnamese cuisine lessons from a Parisian chef to a London musical underground tour alongside a recording studio producer. A visitor can get a personal tour guide or organize a group excursion with other guests. For instance, it’s possible to book an art tour in Tokyo that’ll cost each participant 250$ and an art curator of local exhibitions will conduct it. The tour lasts for four days and takes three hours each day to get the visitors acquainted with galleries and let the guests meet artists and visit exotic restaurants and bars in Tokyo. After the customer orders a specific tour, Airbnb will offer accommodations located near the places the customer wants to visit.
Reair is a replication and migration tool for large databases. According to Reair’s developers, the amount of data used by Airbnb increased from 350TB in the middle of 2013 to 11PB by the end of 2015. As the company grew, its data had to be migrated to a new architecture, and the tools that existed at the moment were not suitable for this task, as they either performed poorly when working with similarly scaled databases, or were very cumbersome and awkward to use.
Aerosolve is a machine learning library that helps set the prices for rented accommodations. The prices depend on a variety of factors like property condition, geographical location or distance to the closest metro station, with some factors having more weight than others. Aerosolve evaluates and processes the data and designates the rental fee. The library had its precursor in the pricing algorithm created by Airbnb’s Director of Product, Dan Hill. The library can be used not only in hotel business but also for calculating personal income based on demographic, cartographic and other data.
Airflow is a data authoring platform that was developed for internal usage at Airbnb when the team realized that the amount of data that had to be processed snowballed and automating task sequences using the usual methods like Cron planners, scripts and frameworks was no longer possible. Airflow is compatible with engines and DBMS like Hive, Presto, MySQL, HDFS, Postgres and S3, and is distributed under Apache license. Its authors state that it’s written in the pythonest Python possible as it has proven itself to be an excellent “data language”.
Airpal is a web-based query execution tool that leverages Facebook’s PrestoDB to facilitate data analysis. With Airpal you don’t need to remember the exact way the query was written, you can forget about copying from the command prompt and you can get rid of the numerous terminal screens. One third of Airbnb developers started using Airpal a year after it was put into operation.
Caravel (formerly Panoramix)
A descriptive, intuitive, interactive data analysis system, Caravel is designed to simplify the process of selecting and visualizing data and to allow users to perform analytics at the speed of thought. Initially designed as a dashboard for the Druid.io database, Caravel began to support other similar products with the help of SqlAlchemy, an ORM that is compatible with the majority of popular database systems.
Polyglot is a decent library for internationalization. Given that Airbnb is present in 191 countries and in 26 languages, they probably know what they’re doing with PolyGlot.
DeepLinksDispatch is a simple library for declaring and routing deep links for a specific entry point in an Android app. For example, it allows the user to get to an apartment screen bypassing the main screen. Additional actions automatically recognized by the library can be specified in the link as well, which allows to avoid the usual deep link declaration in the manifest file, as this method becomes cumbersome for complicated apps.
AirMapView provides interactive maps for Android even without Google Play services as smartphones are sold without them in a number of countires.
Nerve is a utility for tracking the status of machines and services. It runs locally and makes up a distributed system, reporting state information to a distributed key-value store (in Airbnb’s case, the key-value store is Zookeeper). The information can later be used for taking action from a centralized automation center or for alerting engineering about downtime. Nerve is used in combination with Synapse, which is used for service discovery.
This is a style guide for web development that deals with CSS. It is somewhat more controversial than the previous one as it shows more of its authors’ personal habits; then again, it’s not like a lot of people write in pure CSS anyway.
Yet another style guide, this time for Ruby. This one is inspired by Bozhidar Batsov’s and Github’s Ruby style guides.
The Live Typing mobile and web development studio continues to introduce readers to services, programs and open technologies that major IT companies have apart from their flagship products. This time, it’s all about the Foursquare social network.
A while ago our company attempted to include the software testing stage into the SCRUM project management framework. This article is here to prevent other teams new to SCRUM from repeating some of the mistakes we made while doing so.