Engineering principles: building real-time Intercom

A core value of Intercom’s engineering culture is to run less software.

It helps avoid what Jeff Bezos at Amazon calls “undifferentiated heavy lifting” and allows us to focus on our core mission of making web business personal. So when we were upgrading the architecture behind our messaging infrastructure, in order to support real-time interactions, our immediate instinct was to engage a third party provider to deliver the messages.

A variety of factors – how core the feature is to Intercom, third party costs (even with an accommodating vendor), and the fact we were going to have run software anyway – pushed us towards building this ourselves. Building our own infrastructure was not without its challenges, but in this talk I shared at a recent Intercom event, you can learn how we made the build vs buy equation stack up in our favor.

Editors note: This is the first in a series of video talks from Inside Intercom Engineering, which we will be publishing in the coming weeks.