Airbnb Tech Stack Explained: What’s Driving The Airbnb App? — The Tech Behind Series

Julian Wallis
16 min read
Bed with Airbnb logo

When life gets a little too hectic, there’s nothing better than packing your bags and jetting off on an adventure – even if only for the weekend. Airbnb is transforming travel as we know it, offering exclusive abodes that provide comfort away from home while giving people worldwide unique ways to make money. The company has revolutionised the hospitality industry since its inception in 2008. With over 4 million hosts worldwide, the platform provides users with a unique and personalised experience that traditional hotels cannot match.

Are you a business owner looking for the latest technologies to take your digital presence to the next level? If so, you need to hear about Airbnb’s amazing tech stack. From mobile-friendly web applications to secure data storage systems, the platform has harnessed technology in new and exciting ways.

In this Airbnb tech blog, we explore what’s driving the remarkable Airbnb app and break down their sophisticated tech stack to better understand how they have achieved global success. Get ready to gain valuable insights on making your tech stack stand out in an increasingly crowded market. We also dive into the underlying technology behind the Airbnb app and explore how the unique blend of complementary frameworks and tools has contributed to its success.

Before we dive into the tech behind the app, let’s first understand what Airbnb is and how it works. Let’s get started!

Introduction To Airbnb 🏘️

Airbnb logo

Airbnb is a platform that connects people looking for unique and affordable accommodations with hosts who are willing to rent out their spare space. Brian Chesky (Co-founder and CEO), Nathan Blecharczyk (Chief Strategy Officer) and Joe Gebbia (chairman of Samara & created it. Interestingly, “AirBedandBreakfast” was its original name – shortened eventually to just “Airbnb”. The platform’s biggest selling point is that whatever their destination may be, users can find homestays or tourism experiences through this pioneering online marketplace.

It’s safe to say that Airbnb has been causing major waves in the global hospitality industry, allowing travellers to book unique accommodations in destinations across the world with a few taps of their smartphone. Hosts can rent out anything from a spare room to a full apartment or house, and guests can search for listings based on their preferences and budget.

The platform has over 6 million listings connecting guests to hosts in 220 countries around the world. Travellers can discover diverse rental and leasing property options for their next adventure – as well as host events. Host members are responsible for maintaining posts and providing information such as amenities and pictures of each listing so potential guests have access to all details required before booking with confidence.

The company’s revenue stream mainly runs from these generous landlords who make it possible for everyone looking to explore unfamiliar places or seek new experiences via the wide selection displayed on the trusty platform – AirBnb.

Airbnb’s Customer Journey 🚀

The company’s user journey is designed to make it easy for guests and hosts to find what they’re looking for and have a smooth booking experience.

For guests, the user’s journey with the platform starts with a search on the Airbnb website or mobile app (Apple / Google Play). They enter their travel dates, destination, and the number of guests to see available listings that meet their criteria. They can also apply filters such as price range, property type, amenities, and neighbourhood to narrow down their search results.

Once they find a listing that they’re interested in, they can view photos, read detailed descriptions, and check out reviews from previous guests to get a better sense of what the space is like. They can also message the host with any questions or concerns before booking.

When guests are ready to book a listing, they’ll need to create an account on the Airbnb app and provide payment information. The platform offers various payment gateways, including credit cards, PayPal, and Google Pay. Guests can also choose to purchase travel insurance if they intend to protect their trip.

🙋‍♂️ How Hosts Interact With The Airbnb App

The customer journey for hosts begins when they decide to list their property on the platform and ends when they successfully rent out their space to guests. Here’s a breakdown of the host’s customer journey with the Airbnb app.

  • Discovery: The host first becomes aware of Airbnb as a platform to rent out their space. They may learn about it through friends, social media, or by doing research online.
  • Consideration: The host begins to explore the app, looking at listings in their area and deciding whether or not to create a listing of their own. During this stage, the host will likely weigh the pros and cons of using the platform, such as the ease of listing their space versus the fees associated with the platform.
  • Sign Up: If the host decides to move forward with Airbnb, they will create an account and start the process of listing their space. This involves providing information about their property, such as the number of bedrooms, location, and amenities.
  • Listing Creation: Once the host has signed up, they will create a listing for their space. This includes uploading photos, setting pricing, and creating rules for guests.
  • Booking: When a guest is interested in renting the host’s space, they will send a booking request through the app. The host can either accept or decline the request.
  • Pre-Stay Communication: Before the guest arrives, the host and guest can communicate through the app to discuss any details about the stay, such as check-in times, parking, or special requests.
  • Stay: During the guest’s stay, the host can use the app to communicate with the guest, provide recommendations for local activities, and handle any issues that may arise.
  • Post-Stay Review: After the guest has checked out, both the host and guest can leave a review for each other on the app. This helps build trust and accountability within the Airbnb community.

Airbnb Software Architecture 🏛️

Airbnb’s architecture relies heavily on cloud computing services, specifically Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS provides it with scalable and reliable infrastructure for its services, as well as a range of tools and services for managing its application. The app’s backend is built on a combination of Ruby on Rails and Node.js, while the front end is built on React Native. This combination of technologies provides a seamless user experience across different platforms.

Additionally, Airbnb’s software architecture is based on a microservices approach, where the application is divided into smaller, independent services that communicate with each other through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). This approach allows the platform to scale its application more easily, as each service can be scaled independently based on its specific needs.

At the core of Airbnb’s architecture is its API Gateway, which is a single entry point for all client requests. The API Gateway is responsible for routing requests to the appropriate service and managing authentication and authorisation. Airbnb’s application is composed of several different services. The key ones are described below.

  • User Service: This service manages user authentication and authorisation, as well as user profile information.
  • Search Service: The internal search service handles search queries and returns results based on user preferences and filters.
  • Booking Service: Airbnb’s booking service manages the booking process, including availability checking, reservation creation, and payment processing.
  • Messaging Service: The messaging service provides real-time messaging between guests and hosts.
  • Review Service: This service manages the review system, allowing guests and hosts to rate and review each other after a stay.
  • Notification Service: This service handles push notifications, email notifications, and other types of notifications for both guests and hosts.

All of these micro-services communicate with each other through Application Programming Interfaces, allowing them to function independently while still working together to provide a seamless user experience.

How Airbnb Leverages Machine Learning 🤖

Machine learning (ML) is an essential component of the Airbnb app, powering its search and recommendation engines. The platform uses machine learning to understand user preferences, such as location, price range, and amenities, to provide recommendations for listings accordingly.

Additionally, it uses machine learning to optimise pricing for hosts. By analysing market trends and demand, Airbnb’s machine learning algorithms can recommend optimal pricing for listings, ensuring hosts get the best possible return on their investment.

Airbnb calls this AI-powered pricing technology “Smart Pricing”, and it plays an important role in the application’s internal search engine whilst also helping hosts determine the likelihood of their listing being booked at the recommended price for a specific date on the calendar. They also use machine learning algorithms to personalise the search results for guests and to detect fraudulent behaviour.

Airbnb Programming Stack 👩‍💻

📖 React Storybook

React Storybook logo

Airbnb relies heavily on React Storybook as its UI development tool. React Storybook allows the platform’s developers to ensure their work aligns with designs to the pixels across all breakpoints. The platform also easily enables or disables browser features like Flexbox through module reloading.

Airbnb’s frontend engineers load stories on React Storybook with the mock data extracted from the API. This is because if the mock data covers all possible states your UI will encounter, that should suffice. Add to that, alternative states, such as crashing or error states, can always be added in manually later.

⚛️ React Native

React Native Logo

Airbnb has created an impressive app that is accessible to a vast audience thanks to React Native, an efficient framework for building cross-platform apps. With this interface in play, Airbnb engineers can unify iOS and Android with a single codebase – cutting costs and simplifying the process of crafting an awesome app.

React Native also has a large and active community of developers, which means there are many libraries, tools, and resources available to help developers build their applications. Hence, this is a popular and powerful tool for cross-platform development.

🕸 GraphQL

GraphQL logo

Airbnb’s app uses GraphQL Unions, a query language for APIs, to fetch data from its servers and systemise its backend-driven UI. GraphQL allows the platform to efficiently fetch only the data it needs, reducing network usage and improving app performance.

Airbnb has streamlined its backend system with GraphQL, giving it the powerful ability to construct dynamic pages based on custom queries that can assemble an array of UI sections. Better yet – all responses are tailored and intuitively respond to user input in order to build a comprehensive interface from scratch. This process is made even smoother by having generated files manage the entire system, meaning no need for large bundles containing every single UI section at launch.

🌐 Nginx

Nginx logo

Nginx is an essential tool for some of the world’s most successful tech companies, including Airbnb. This powerful HTTP server provides the platform a secure connection while enhancing scalability and accelerating content delivery – all crucial components necessary to dominate today’s digital landscape.

📦 Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Amazon Web Services (AWS) logo

Airbnb uses Amazon Web Services to host and scale its app infrastructure. It uses three products under the AWS umbrella for different purposes.

  • Amazon S3 provides a cloud storage system capable of storing a vast amount of online assets and retrieving any amount of data from anywhere.
  • Amazon EC2 is the platform’s cloud hosting of choice, as it is a reliable and scalable platform to host servers and databases. Furthermore, it also does a great job of managing incoming traffic and keeps the system stable even during unexpected jumps in traffic.
  • Amazon RDS (Relational Database Service) is a managed database service used to store and manage data. Airbnb previously used MySQL databases but moved to Amazon RDS to systemise their administration and other routine activities and for the added security and scalability benefits.

🗺️ Google Maps API

Google Maps API

Airbnb’s app integrates with the Google Maps API to provide guests with accurate location information and directions to their accommodations. Google Maps also allows guests to explore the local area and discover nearby attractions and restaurants.

🔥 Firebase

Firebase logo

Airbnb uses Firebase, a mobile and web application development platform, for its real-time messaging and push notification features. Firebase allows the platform to send targeted and personalised messages to guests and hosts in real-time.

📊 Big Data Tools

Airbnb uses a combination of Presto, Druid, and Airpal to manage its big data management needs. The platform possesses a tremendous volume of user data, so they use various technologies to store, process, analyse, and manage it.

📲 Mobile Optimisation

The Airbnb app is optimised for mobile devices, providing a seamless user experience for users on the go. The app’s interface is designed to be intuitive and user-friendly, with features like location-based search and instant booking, making it easy for users to find and book listings on the go. The app also uses push notifications to keep users informed of booking updates and to encourage engagement with the platform.

🔐 Security-First Approach

Trust and safety are critical components of the Airbnb platform, and the app’s technology is designed to ensure both. The app’s payment system is secure, with all transactions processed through a secure payment gateway. Additionally, the platform uses various trust and safety measures to ensure a safe and reliable experience for users. For example, all hosts and guests are verified through a combination of government ID checks and social profiles. 

Airbnb tech stack: Woman planning app user experience

Tools & Technologies Behind Some Key Application Features

🔍 Search & Discovery

Airbnb uses Elasticsearch, a search engine based on the Lucene library, to power its search and discovery functionality.  Elasticsearch allows for indexing and searching through large volumes of data quickly and efficiently, making it possible for guests to find the accommodations they’re looking for.

💸 Online Payments

Airbnb uses Braintree, a payment processing platform owned by PayPal, to process payments on its platform. Braintree provides a secure and reliable payment gateway that supports a wide range of payment methods, including credit cards and PayPal.

💬 Messaging

Airbnb uses its own messaging system to allow guests and hosts to communicate with each other directly. The messaging system is built on top of the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) using Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM) for push notifications.

🛑 Fraud Detection

Airbnb uses machine learning algorithms to detect and prevent fraud on its platform. These algorithms analyse a range of data points, including user behaviour, location data, and payment information, to identify suspicious activity and take appropriate action.

Reviews & Ratings

Airbnb uses a custom-built reviews and ratings system to allow guests and hosts to rate each other after a stay. The system uses a combination of machine learning algorithms and human moderation to ensure that reviews are accurate and trustworthy.

Challenges In Maintaining Airbnb’s Tech Stack 🚧

Managing Airbnb’s tech stack means tackling several fronts: juggling a complex setup with a diverse array of technologies (including Python, JavaScript, React.js, microservices, SQL and NoSQL databases, machine learning frameworks, Airbnb anti-party technology, security tools, etc.) and data intricacies to handle millions of active users across the globe.  

Accomplishing all this while maintaining seamless user experiences and global accessibility is not a small feat. It presents an ongoing challenge crucial for the platform’s continued technological advancement and success.

Security (amongst the many) has always been a pressing challenge for the hospitality giant. Keeping millions of user data safe from potential breaches and maintaining a secure environment free from harmful activities is, without a doubt, a continuous priority. This involves implementing stringent measures to safeguard valuable user information and ensuring a trustworthy platform for everyone.

Maintaining these critical aspects is pivotal for Airbnb’s continued success in providing a secure and reliable platform for all users.

As Airbnb pioneers the future of hospitality, anticipation builds around the emerging technologies poised to transform its tech landscape. Let’s delve into the potential technological adaptations and industry trends that might shape Airbnb’s future tech stack. 

🧠 AI-Powered Personalisation

Integrating advanced AI algorithms could elevate user experiences by tailoring recommendations and accommodations based on individual preferences, enhancing satisfaction and engagement.

🌐 Extended Reality (XR) Experiences:

Leveraging augmented and virtual reality could revolutionise property tours, allowing guests to explore accommodations virtually and envision stays in an immersive manner before booking – a significant leap in CX transformation.

🔗 Blockchain For Trust & Security

Implementing blockchain technology might bolster trust by enhancing transaction security, ensuring transparent reviews, and verifying property authenticity.

🏠 IoT and Smart Home Integration:

With the rise of smart home devices, Airbnb could offer seamless integration, allowing guests to control home features, and enhancing convenience and user experience. 

Conclusion: Airbnb Tech Stack 🏁

Airbnb’s success as a company can be attributed to a combination of factors, including its user-centric approach to product development, its efficient software architecture, and its innovative use of AI and ML.

By focusing on the customer journey and constantly seeking ways to improve the user experience, Airbnb has become a trusted and beloved platform for travellers around the world. At the same time, its software architecture has allowed it to scale rapidly and efficiently, ensuring that the platform remains stable and reliable even as it grows. Moreover, Airbnb’s use of AI and ML has allowed it to deliver personalised experiences to its users, from search results to pricing recommendations. This technology has helped to streamline the booking process, making it easier and more convenient for both guests and hosts.

The programming stack and tools and technologies behind Airbnb’s key application features also play a vital role in the platform’s success. From React to Node.js and AWS, these technologies allow Airbnb to build and maintain a powerful and scalable platform that meets the needs of its users.

Overall, the Airbnb tech stack represents a powerful combination of user-centric design, efficient software architecture, and innovative technologies. As the company continues to grow and evolve, it will undoubtedly continue to leverage these tools and technologies to deliver exceptional experiences to its users around the world. By leveraging the power of the Airbnb tech stack, many other business owners can optimise their digital presence to serve their customers better!

To learn more about Airbnb’s tech stack and how you can use it to improve your software products and services, feel free to book a discovery call with us today.

Published On

April 21, 2023