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Over the weekend, Google Maps co-creator Bret Taylor shared a funny anecdote about the early days of the product. The Twitter thread tells the story of how Sergey Brin wanted to name what is widely known today as the “Satellite” map view “Bird Mode.”

What easily became the marquee feature of early Google Maps — the ability to see real images of any place around the globe — was not available at launch. Rather, it was introduced later in 2005 and one of the (lighter) issues to resolve before release was centered on what to call it.

“Satellite” was the preferred name by many, except for the product engineers. To them, “Aerial Photography” was a more accurate description given how most images in the view were captured by planes flying 800 to 1,500 feet above ground. Unfortunately, it was too long to fit on a button and most end users understood “Satellite.”

As a result, the Maps team went into the product review meeting before launch — featuring senior executives like Larry Page and Sergey Brin — with an unnamed feature. Given the co-founders’ hatred of traditional meetings, the pair would often concoct various experiments.

That particular Maps meeting featured a countdown clock where all decisions were final once it hit zero. Names discussed included “Airplane View,” “Superman,” and “I Feel Picture-y.” At the literal last second before the buzzer sounded, Brin threw out “Bird Mode.” A nod to the bird view perspective, it was technically correct, but not particularly catchy.

While that was supposed to be the final name of the feature, even the engineers that liked “Aerial Photography” conceded that “Bird Mode” was “silly and horrible,” and could be detrimental to the “huge” feature. At the end of the day, the Google Maps team went with “Satellite” after a “pocket veto,” and the co-founder never caught on.

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Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: