Google Ride Finder, Circa 2005 Could Have Been Uber

We're a day late for Throwback Thursday, but "What Could Have Been" is always a fun game to play no matter what day of the week it is. Google is a company with a rich history, and considering the company's experimental nature, it's a history that's plagued with a few misfires and some bumps along the road. Remember Google Wave? What about Google Buzz? Many a product has been born out of Google Labs and killed off before it got to become "a thing" and Ride Finder could have been a big deal should Google have stuck with it, but 2005 was a very different time, indeed.

As TechCrunch is taking a look, Ride Finder was a sort of mix of Google Maps and Google Travel, offering users a way to find a cab or taxi in their area. According to the original Google Labs announcement, Ride Finder was to be a way for users to "tell us where you want to find a ride and we'll show you the actual positions of participating vehicles in that area, along with a phone number you can use to contact the fleet operator (e.g., Chicago)." While this is not the same as Uber's service today, as Uber operate their own vehicles and network, the idea of instantly finding out where there's a car available is essentially the starting point for any Uber journey.

Ride Finder was no more a few years later in 2009, but it was an ambitious idea that, in hindsight, could have netted Google billions of dollars. The problem however, was that 2005 was a very different time, and the idea of browsing the web on your phone was a novel idea in and of itself, let alone doing anything as sophisticated as hailing a cab. As such, the service would have been relegated to people planning rides before they left their homes, which is pretty narrow compared to how Uber and Lyft are used. It could have been an excellent service however, as the images below show that ride providers could have input their own information, essentially creating an organic list of taxi firms across the Unite States. Alas, what could have been.

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Tom Dawson

Former Editor-in-Chief
For years now I've had a heavy interest in technology, growing up with 8-bit computers and gaming consoles has fed into an addiction to everything that beeps. Android saved me from the boredom of iOS years ago and I love watching the platform grow. As an avid reader and writer nothing pleases me more than to write about the exciting world of Android, Google and mobile technology as a whole.