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SATURDAY, MAY 28, 2016
 
   
Any web developer with a brilliant idea for a new website wants one thing: An equally brilliant, preferably .com ending domain name. Sure .us allows for 'domain hacks' like del.icio.us - but the problem with those domains is that, if you're like me, you'll always have a hard time remembering if it's deli.cio.us, de.licio.us, or any of its many variants. Domain hunting is probably far worse for companies which already have their name, and switch very easily once they find their domain is taken.

There's a lot of importance in a name. It's branding - it has to reflect what you are about, what you are trying to achieve. While it may not always be completely obvious, a name often captures something about the company or product. Take RIM - Research in Motion, the company that specializes in mobile phone products - with a product called Blackberry. While now, when you hear someone talking about a Blackberry, you automatically assume they mean their phone - but before the name became linked with the product, it wasn't exactly clear what a "blackberry" was. The name came to mind though when looking at the full keyboard that looked like the seeds of a Blackberry, while also providing a "fresh" name to a tech product which would have otherwise had a name like TI-232.

With all the importance in names, a lot of research is then put into that name. There's research done on the feeling and emotion the word/name evokes from people, they make sure the word isn't some insulting slang term in remotest places in the world. Yet with all the focus in name selection, you'd think some of the brilliant minds behind some of those companies would have taken care of some low hanging fruit.

Take a small tech company based out of California - Google. For a company which rapidly became the leader in search, and allowing people to research, you would think they would have spelled their name correctly. Google was a misspelling of the word, or number, googol - 10 to the power of 100. Of course, "google" is a much nicer spelling - particularly phonetically - but it's a tad ironic that the got their own name wrong. But we'll let it slip, because at the time, "googol" or even "google" wasn't something you could just google. You could Yahoo! it... but you wouldn't then be asked: "Did you mean googol?"

Another odd one is KEO - a space time capsule. Set to launch sometime between 2010 and 2011, KEO will return to Earth some 50,000 years later, carrying messages of our present day. Quite an interesting project - a project whose outcome none of us are likely to see. Why the name KEO? The letters K, E and O are supposedly the sounds most common to the widely spoken languages of our day. Yet, a more common sound is the open vowel A1. Not a big deal, really, except it defeats the purpose of the name - or at least defeats the explanation of that name.

Ultimately a name doesn't make or break you - if your product or idea is innovative, and better than all the alternatives. A great product can rise above its name, like the George Foreman Grill. I just can't help but wonder - particularly when it comes to tech companies, how the low hanging fruit goes unpicked.


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