A study on scale: WhatsApp & Google Drive… the story of our integration

MAY 24, 2016

Posted by Mike Procopio, Engineering Manager, Google Drive and Wesley Chun, Developer Advocate, Google Apps

WhatsApp is one of the most popular mobile apps in the world. Over a billion users send and receive over 42 billion messages, photos, and videos every day. It's fast, easy to use, and reliable.

But what happens when people lose their phone or otherwise upgrade to a new one? All those messages and memories would be gone. So we worked with WhatsApp to give their users the ability to back up their data to Google Drive and restore it when they setup WhatsApp on a new phone. With messages and media safely stored in your Drive, there’s no more worry about losing any of those memories.

Scaling for a billion users

One of the biggest challenges for an integration of this scope is scaling. How do you back up data for a billion users? Many things were done to ensure the feature works as intended and is unnoticeable by users. Our approach? First, we relied on a proven infrastructure that can handle this kind of volume—Google Drive. Next, we optimized what to back up and when to do the backups—the key was to upload only incremental changes rather than transmit identical files.

On the server side (backend), we focused on optimizing byte storage as well as the number of network calls between WhatsApp and Google. As far as deployment goes, we rolled out slowly over several months to minimize the size and impact of deployment.

WhatsApp & Google Drive, a seamless integration

If you have ever used WhatsApp, you know how it gets out of your way, and lets you get started quickly: no account creation, no passwords to manage, and no user IDs to remember or exchange. This sets a high bar for any integration with WhatsApp: for it to feel like a natural part of WhatsApp, it has to be as seamless, fast, and reliable as WhatsApp itself.

By using the Google Drive API, we were able to achieve this: no need to type in any usernames or passwords, just a few taps in the app, and WhatsApp starts backing up. The best part is that all the tools used in the integration are available to all developers. With the Google Drive API, seamless and scalable integrations are as easy to use for the user as they are for developers.

To learn more about how we did it and get all the details, check out the complete talk we gave together with WhatsApp at Google I/O 2016.

Are you ready to integrate your web and mobile apps with Google Drive? Get started today by checking out our intro video as well as the video demoing the newest API, then dig in with the developer docs found at developers.google.com/drive. We're excited to see what you build next with the Drive API—and we're ready to scale with you!