OK, I’ll stop pretending now. They didn’t steal anything. But they did just launch what sounds almost exactly like an idea I spent many months developing back in 2008 before abandoning it when I realised I couldn’t possibly make it work.
Uber have just launched UberCOMMUTE.
My idea was called 42ity. Pronounced “For-too-ity”, it was a perfect combination of the fortuitous occurrence of finding someone driving in the same direction as you, with a Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy reference thrown in for good measure for a product which could exactly be described as an “electronic hitch hiking thumb.”
I went so far as registering a domain (42ity.net – the guy who owns 42ity.com wasn’t interested in selling it), and setting up a blog on it, but when I realised that I couldn’t possibly afford the marketing campaign that it would take to achieve the market saturation required to make the app actually work, I put the whole project into my ex-project vault.
How many people need to be actively running the app whenever they drive before you are actually lucky enough to have one driving past your location who is also going to/past your destination? A lot. The answer is definitely a lot. And until that market saturation is achieved, the app is almost utterly useless, and people would quickly uninstall it, and thus you’d never get there.
That was my conclusion anyway, and I stand by it.
Uber, on the other hand, already have global recognition and massive uptake of their main app. They actually have a chance – so good on them! I still think it will be very very difficult to get the right level of saturation to be of any significant use, but if they ever expand the app to Sydney, I will install and use it.
Oh, though they seem to be focusing on long distance driving. I was open to all drivers at all times. But they basically cover most of that with Uber already, so this is a complimentary feature to their existing platform.
Of course the ideas aren’t identical. They never are. But this is the closest I have seen to my idea – despite many numerous ride sharing apps which have been launched over the years. None ever seemed to focus on the real time hitch-hiking-style which I thought would be idea.
Here is one blog post from 2008 where I mention 42ity. And that seems to be just about the only evidence I have of 42ity left online these days.
I will try to remember to plug in my hard drive later today and find some of my mock-up images for 42ity and add them to this post.