Uber Once Called UberPool Riders 'Masters' and 'Minions'

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

There’s “Heaven View” (weird), “Greyball” (strange), “Hell” (great idea), and probably an entire laundry list of strange Uber codenames we still haven’t learned about. Here’s a new one, courtesy of an excellent report today from BuzzFeed’s Priya Anand: The company used to refer to the first passenger in an UberPool ride is called “a master,” while extra riders picked were known as “minions.” Even better!


We’ve known for a long time that Uber spends a ton to subsidize rides on its service, in an effort to gain more control of a particular market. But Anand’s piece offers the most illuminating look to date at exactly how far Uber’s willing to go to drive out competition: Based on a slew of internal documents leaked to BuzzFeed, the story reports that Uber spent as much as $1 million per week in San Francisco to artificially lower the cost of a ride in the city, in an attempt to destroy Lyft’s competing service.

Given Uber’s penchant for weird codenames, though, this bit jumped right out:

If it’s working as designed, Pool is efficient — a way for drivers to spend far less time searching for fares, and for Uber to maximize drivers’ time. But for Pool to work, every “master” — the company’s internal code name for the first passenger in a Pool ride — requires second and sometimes third riders called “minions.” Pool also requires a critical mass of passengers and drivers to be able to match masters and minions headed on similar routes. For each trip in which a master isn’t matched with at least one minion, Uber loses money.

Uber told the news outlet that masters and minions are referred today in more straightforward terms: “primary” and “secondary.” I’d love to see the meeting notes that led to the change.



As someone who works with software engineers on a regular basis, none of this nomenclature is surprising, nor is it a big deal. That said, changing it because of the inevitable optics backlash from people who don’t understand that stuff like this is common terminology is a smart move, and it probably shouldn’t have taken so long for someone to say “hey maybe people will take this the wrong way if they hear about it.”

I guess anything’s better though than the old “master-slave” nomenclature of IDE cable selection.