I like naming things. I’ve been involved in at least 8 separately named ‘bands’ (and tossed around stupid/clever band names for amusement ever since) * I invented the subdivision name generator. In addition, I love web applications and E-business. So it’s about time I published a treatise on the intersection between the two. Here goes:
Website naming has been an evolutionary process. From my eye, the development has gone through four major eras. For fun, let’s call them:
The Literozoic period:
The Literozaic period occurred early in the evolution of the web. Domain naming was a mystery and some of the first properties were just beginning to crawl out of the sea. In these early times, most believed that grabbing a domain name that was authoritative about your function was worth its weight in gold. Great examples of the era include About.com, Pets.com, and strong-literal-brand sites like ESPN and AOL.
The Absurdozoic period:
Shortly after the Literozoic period, sites with seemingly meaningless names begin to appear. A key element of this naming period is that the name of the company held very little or obtuse connection to the function of the business. ** Lycos, Excite, Yahoo! were popular search engines. Amazon, Expedia and eBay led ecommerce. A variation on the form is compound nonsense like AltaVista. This touched off a branding war that spilled into business as a whole (see Accenture).
The Cutesyassic period:
With the rise of Web 2.0 everything got cute. Along with those rounded corners, drop shadows and gradients, everyone had to have a memorable cuddly name. Lets call this the google effect. Once a nonsense cuddly name made it big the door blew open. Some of your favorite startups are here. Del.icio.us, Digg, Meebo. My favorite variation on the form is naming your site after a Dr. Seuss word (see Zillow).
The HipLiterassic Period
Finally, the current trend. HipLiteralism. It’s no longer cool to make no sense, so you gotta have some logic to your hip brand. The rules for this form:
- Use a real memorable word/phrase (no more gibberish)
- The word must make just a little bit of sense about your brand
Twitter — I can see the connection. Facebook — sure. Flickr — the proto-hipliteral brand. In fact, I can’t think of a successful startup from the past couple of years without a semi-cute/semi-hip name. Take a quick peek at the Techcrunch50 winners. Yammer, RedBeacon, Mint — check, check, check.
So here we are. Smack dab in the Hipliterassic period. Are we stuck with this naming trend forever? Probably not. But if you launch today you gotta play along. My startup described in the previous post to manage the social web? Let’s call it Bouncer.
* Who hasn’t done this? I always think of a scene from one of those Eggers books when some characters are naming bands and they come up with ‘JFKFC’. HA!
** A cynic would tell you this is because those companies wanted to keep their options open, so they picked something generic.