With a service as big and powerful as Uber, words matter.
Damir Sagolj / Reuters
Every so often the Associated Press Stylebook, the collective that sets many of the news industry's grammar and word use standards, sends out an update to alert news organizations and concerned citizens to the latest changes (it's BLUE cheese, not bleu cheese, FYI). In yesterday's update, among updated spellings for “negroni” and “profiterole,” Uber and Lyft make an important appearance — one that, hopefully, will put an end to the misnomer buzzword “ride-sharing”:
Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft let people use smartphone apps to book and pay for a private car service or in some cases, a taxi. They may also be called ride-booking services. Do not use ride-sharing.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
As anyone who covers companies like Uber and Lyft can attest, the term “ride-sharing” is a holdover from the also improperly named “sharing economy” and really doesn't describe what companies like Uber and Lyft do. Though Uber has recently introduced a carpooling service, the vast majority of services that Uber and Lyft and others provide mimics a traditional taxi or driver service. You don't get in an Uber to share a ride with another paying passenger. Nor do most drivers share their cars (most own or rent) with a larger pool of drivers. You do, however, hail a ride with apps like Uber and Lyft. They are, in the truest sense, ride-hailing services.
This may sound nitpicky, but it's important for two reasons. First, Silicon Valley is well-known for producing awful buzzwords and cannot be given a pass when its jargon turns out to be ill-fitting. And second, as companies like Uber and Lyft grow larger and reach further into our lives, this sort of nomenclature matters. Uber and Lyft are apps, but they're also services that extend into our physical world and bring with them all the attendant wonders and risks. Recent privacy and assault issues have caused people to examine what it means to hail and step into an Uber or Lyft vehicle, driven by a stranger and these risks make it all the more important that these services are described accurately. And that all starts with how they're named.
So join the AP Stylebook and put “ride-sharing” to bed once and for all.