Co-creator of Google Maps says ‘Satellite’ was almost called ‘Bird Mode’

After fierce debate over what to call the feature, a Google executive suggested 'Bird Mode'

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If you use Google Maps at all, you’re probably familiar with ‘Satellite’ mode, which transforms the map into aerial photos of the area you’re observing.

One of the co-creators of Google Maps revealed in a recent Twitter thread that Satellite was almost named ‘Bird Mode.’

According to Bret Taylor (@btaylor), there was some debate over what to call the feature after integrating satellite imagery from Google’s Keyhole (also know as Google Earth) acquisition in 2005.

It was initially called Satellite, but considering a significant percentage of the images were taken from airplanes, that name was factually incorrect.

So, the Maps team formed two sides — those in favour of Satellite, including Taylor, and those supporting the more accurate ‘Aerial Photography’ name.

Taylor tweeted that Aerial Photography didn’t fit on a button and that people in the usability study understood what Satellite meant.

At that time, Google’s executive team ran weekly product review meetings, and Taylor wasn’t able to resolve the name issue before the launch review. The result was the launch review became the execs naming the feature for the team.

Taylor said that these meetings were a popular place to experiment with crazy meeting ideas. At this time, there was a huge countdown clock, and when it zero, the meeting was over, and all decisions were final.

Taylor, the team and the execs are pitching names as the clock counted down. Suggestions included ‘Airplane View,’ ‘Superman’ and others, but right before the clock hit zero, Taylor says (he thinks) Sergey Brin suggests ‘Bird Mode.’

Boom. That was it. Taylor tried to argue, but the decision was final because the clock had hit zero.

Over the next few days, the Maps team freaked out. They knew the feature would be huge, and now it had a name everyone on both sides of the ‘Satellite vs. Aerial Photography’ debate didn’t like.

However, Taylor says that if you write the code, you have a surprising amount of power.

“We pocket vetoed the decision and launched with ‘Satellite.’ And literally, no exec noticed or remembered our review,” Taylor tweeted.

Source: Twitter (@btaylor)