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Skyscanner, today one of the world’s best-known flight aggregators and a metasearch engine, grew from a 3-person start-up to a billion-dollar company with millions of users across the world.
To scale their product, Skyscanner established a Polish branch of software developers, that later became a standalone software house – Order of Code (OoC, now a part of SoftwareHut).
Apart from software development and testing projects delivered by Order of Code for Skyscanner, the team supported the company with R&D projects.
While growing their business, Skyscanner encountered several problems, each generating significant costs or performance issues.
As some of these problems required finding a tailored solution, Order of Code supported Skyscanner with R&D projects.
R&D projects, including bot detection and elimination, system optimisation, and NLP implementation, eventually helped to exclude unauthorised website traffic, increased the website’s speed for their users, improved database, and allowed for NLP’s use on the website. At the same time, solutions provided by OoC cut the cost of website maintenance and improved customer satisfaction.
bot detection and elimination
With the growing userbase (at the time around 25 million visits per month), Skyscanner became prone to automated bots visiting the website and retrieving data from servers. These visits, in turn, increased the cost of equipment and Internet traffic significantly.The OoC designed and developed a prototype for traffic analysis, that helped to detect and block bots entering the website. Based on behavioural patterns analysis, suspicious IP addresses were blocked automatically. The implementation of this prototype helped to significantly reduce the amount of unwanted traffic generated by bots, saving Skyscanner millions of dollars in the long run, increasing website speed for regular users at the same time.
Professional approach, detailed analysis, and a finally effective solution provided by OoC helped us to reduce unwanted traffic and save money, significantly.
Gareth Williams, CEO
Growing rapidly, Skyscanner had to overcome performance issues regarding data aggregation. Due to increasing amount of data, price information hadn’t displayed properly. As data inconsistency meant revenue loses and lower user satisfaction, the OoC team rebuilt the system dividing it into several smaller, individually scalable tasks. This solution improved overall performance of the website and eliminated a single point of failure. The new system also allowed for more relevant search results. As a result, the database shrank 10x, and the time needed to obtain information by the user was reduced by half, improving response time.
Inefficient processing of massive amounts of data was creating a severe bottleneck for the growth of Skyscanner. Due to a lack of internal resources, we decided to get help from the Order of Code team.
For several months they became a part of our Research & Development team. Initially, they worked with our expert investigating the problem, designing a proof-of-concept solution.
Later, they were the main force to implement the first version of the actual system, which after some time, was introduced to production by our internal team. Order of Code consultants integrated with our team seamlessly, who working both on-site and remotely, showed creativity and dedication to deliver high-quality code.
Crawford Tait, Technical Manager
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NLP-powered search engine
To improve how users interact with the website, Skyscanner decided to implement the ability to parse and interpret natural language queries. Apart from returning key/value pairs based on users’ queries, the system had to support multiple languages and recognize common mistakes and incorrect grammar forms.
Order of Code accepted a big challenge, working on an NLP R&D project. It was a completely unknown area to them and us, yet they managed to learn quickly and achieve very promising results. The final product’s quality was impressive given the limited time and number of languages to be “understood” by the system, including the linguistically difficult Mandarin.
Crawford Tait, Technical Manager
The OoC team developed algorithms for recognizing text queries, linked with Skyscanner’s flight data API. The system, first developed for English, Polish, and Italian, was later expanded for Chinese Traditional, Spanish, and Russian. This way, Skyscanner’s users could as questions like: “How much is the cheapest airline ticket to London for me and my daughter for next weekend”, and receive an answer based on Skyscanner’s data.
For a couple of years, OoC carried out a series of projects for our labs’ (R&D) team. These ranged from development of a concept for a multi-lingual NLP service to building a prototype of a major database system. They worked alongside our employees to create these proofs-of-concept, and then later worked both on and off-site on the prototype which became a base for the final product.
Alistair Hahn, CTO
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