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The day Lyft was bigger than Uber

JP Mangalindan
Senior Correspondent
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick; REUTERS/Shu Zhang

Call it a protest by app.

Some users in recent days have ditched Uber for competitor Lyft over concerns that the popular ride-hailing app attempted to capitalize over the weekend on airport strikes around the country by charging less for rides. Around the US, demonstrators showed up in droves at airports in areas such as San Francisco, New York and Seattle to protest a controversial executive order President Donald Trump signed on Friday barring people from seven primarily Muslim countries from entering the US for at least 90 days.

The movement, which earned the Twitter hashtag #deleteUber, generated a slew of headlines on its own, causing many users to rethink their relationship with their favorite ride-hailing app.

Although Uber and Lyft declined to comment for the purposes of this story, data from third-party app tracking firm App Annie indicates Lyft surpassed Uber in the US on Sunday for most app downloads on iOS in the US in a single day — more than twice the number of times people downloaded Lyft just two weeks prior. Downloads for the Android version of Lyft’s app in the Google Play store also saw a significant boost that day.

“As a first-generation immigrant who used to be undocumented, I want to support tech companies and founders who support immigrants,” Carlo Almendral, CEO and co-founder of The Data School, explained to Yahoo Finance.

For Samantha Unger Katz, a resident of Brooklyn, New York, the decision to stop using Uber in lieu of Lyft was weeks in the making, spurred by the news in December that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had joined Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum, an advisory board of 19 business leaders that now also includes Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk and PepsiCo (PEP) CEO Indra Nooyi.

Katz finally made the switch on Sunday after Lyft announced it would donate $1 million over the next four years to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Over the weekend, a judge temporarily blocked part of the White House’s immigration order after the ACLU filed a lawsuit over it.

“I think it’s important to put our money where our mouth is,” Katz told Yahoo Finance. “Just as [outgoing Starbucks CEO] Howard Schultz said we should live by our values, I think we should invest and shop by our values. Through shifts in spending, we can make an impact.”

Lyft CEO Logan Green. Laura Buckman/Reuters

Not everyone necessarily sees it that way.

Uber, for its part, said on Twitter (TWTR) over the weekend that it did not intend to “break” the airport strikes by charging less. While Kalanick came under fire for joining Trump’s advisory board — a move viewed by some as Uber’s CEO aligning himself with the new US president — Kalanick himself argued in a January all-hands meeting his advisory role will help aid the company’s mission of improving global transportation.

Kalanick also separately promised the company would create a new $3 million legal defense fund to help Uber drivers stranded overseas because of Trump’s travel ban.

In light of these promises from Uber, Travis Katz, CEO and co-founder of the travel site Trip.com, believes a boycott against the ride-hailing app might not make sense. “Of all the ways we, as Americans, could be investing energy to safeguard our democratic principles, boycotting a company that is actively supporting your cause, albeit via different tactics feels misguided,” he told Yahoo Finance.

It’s far too early to tell whether users who switched to Lyft will remain Lyft users for the long-haul or whether the boycott will ultimately prove temporary. But if this latest protest is any indication, democracy, in all its diversity and divergence, is obviously still alive and kicking.

JP Mangalindan is a senior correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.  

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