Welcome to Digitalcutlet

Google Maps Satellite View Was Almost Called ‘Bird Mode’


When big companies introduce something, it becomes a standard. For instance, Google Maps calling its popular feature as Satellite View, which may have been even sillier if one of the employees had not secretly coded it this way. Google Maps co-creator Bret Taylor took to Twitter to reveal the ‘silly Google Maps origin story’. The Twitter thread includes the back story of the mapping service’s popular Satellite View feature.

Back in 2005 when the Google Maps team was brainstorming on the name for what we today know as the Satellite View, super bosses Larry Page and Sergey Brin decided to hold an executive review when certain decisions were made within the duration of a huge countdown clock.

Under the buzzer’s pressure, everyone was throwing names including ‘aerial’ and ‘satellite’. Just when Brin proposed ‘Bird Mode’, the buzzer buzzed. The decision had been made, no questions asked. The meeting was over.

Now, it was in the hands of the coders, including Taylor, who could have saved humanity with a little lie. So they decided to do an internal veto and launched the feature as ‘Satellite View’, even if it meant a factually incorrect name as a significant amount of images shown in this mode are actually captured through aerial photography.

While many of us are okay using the not-so-factually correct Satellite View, having a ‘Bird Mode’ would have been kind of cool.

Bret Taylor left Google in 2007 to join venture capital firm Benchmark Capital, where he along with Jim Norris created FriendFeed. The website was acquired by Facebook in 2009. Taylor worked as the CTO of Facebook until 2012. He is currently the president and chief product officer at SalesForce.