February 1, 2017
A viral campaign over the weekend to #DeleteUber took place in response to Uber’s actions or perceived actions surrounding President Trump’s immigration ban. Although Uber vowed to compensate drivers stranded overseas and set up a $3 million legal fund for those drivers, users weren’t appeased and the Internet was abuzz with thousands of photos of people deleting the Uber app from their phones. As a result, on January 29 Lyft had more downloads than Uber on iOS for the first time ever, according to App Annie.
The Verge reports that when Uber decided to suspend surge pricing during a taxi strike at JFK Airport protesting President Trump’s immigration ban, the ride-hailing company was accused of strikebreaking. The company responded that, “it technically didn’t break the strike because its tweet suspending surge pricing went out at 7:36 pm, over 30 minutes after the strike ended.”
It wasn’t clear how many taxi drivers even honored the strike, but what is clear is that Uber riders are not a loyal bunch and see the service as “a necessary evil.”
According to hashtag tracker Keyhole, #DeleteUber was sent out by 3,945 users in 5,116 posts over the weekend, with a potential 27,746,787 impressions. Even so, App Annie reports that Uber remained at the top in both Travel and Maps and Navigation categories.
Uber users also seem to be reacting to the fact that Trump named the company chief executive Travis Kalanick to a panel of economic advisors, even though that same panel includes chief executives from Apple, Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook.
Temple University law professor Brishen Rogers, who studies the social cost of ride-sharing, notes that, “Boycotts are a classic way to hold powerful actors to account.” He adds that the boycott won’t hurt drivers who already work for multiple platforms. “If they receive fewer fares from Uber they’ll just switch over [to] Lyft or another provider,” he said. “So the campaign will likely do more harm to the company than drivers, which is what most people probably intend.”
Kalanick has vowed to have principled confrontations with the Trump administration, but that hasn’t had the same positive impact that Lyft got when it donated $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union. TechCrunch points out that, “for now, Uber’s loss appears to be Lyft’s gain,” with Lyft’s daily iOS downloads more than doubling on January 29. The day before, Lyft ranked No. 39 in the free apps for iPhone, and ended the weekend at the No. 7 position. At the time of the TechCrunch article publication, Lyft ranked No. 4, “ahead of Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and Facebook.”
Lyft has consistently positioned itself as a “friendlier alternative to Uber,” with drivers preferring it to Uber. But the company still only has a 20 percent marketshare, a “distant second to Uber.” Trump supporters have mounted a #DeleteLyft campaign, but that hasn’t gone viral.