And Then There Was Uber

We started two articles ago talking about specific names and the power behind them. Our series started off with the craft-based market Etsy and today we tackle a new fad of our current times – Uber.

Uber is an app centered on the idea of creating a transportation network; specifically taxi based transportation. Launched in March 2009, it started off as Ubercab. The app is simple, you flag yourself as a person that needs a taxi ride and state your destination and location. The information is then relayed across the server where drivers can access, a driver then would flag himself as available and that is about it. In December 2014 the app has reached 53 countries and more than 200 cities around the world.

So what is the story of the name? The app started as Ubercap however Travis Kalanick received a cease and desist letter from San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency due to claims that he was operating an unlicensed taxi company. So Travis renamed the company to Uber. But what does Uber really mean?

While slightly ambiguous what we know is that the word originally isn’t English. In fact, it was coined by Friedrich Nietzsche; the German Philosopher in his term Ubermensch which described the higher state all men should aspire to (although the word is originally German Über and means “Over” or “Across”). Which in later years was adapted in English slang to mean that if something is “uber” then that something is of higher quality or level.

Either way, the name works. It is short, simple and if we take it in comparison with the word “Upper” (which means “Higher” in English or “Top” part of something) then it feels like a misspelled version of that word. Considering it is an app and simplicity of a service was its target, the name achieves that perfectly and does make you feel (due to the slang meaning and the relation to the word “Upper”) that indeed you are using something of higher quality.


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