How Did Some Great Companies Get Their Cool Names?

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Jul 13 2011
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Entrepreneurs and founders have a common problem during their company setup – what shall be their company’s name? It would be a challenge especially during current internet age because the domain name you desire may not be available. From product concept to their pet name, that’s how some of these successful companies get their name. So, how did some of these cool companies got their name?

1) Twitter

Twitter How It Gets Its NameThe Original Name: Status

How it Started:

Jack Dorsey with co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone started Twitter in 2006. But the now famous Twitter name didn’t just fly out of thin air as explained by Dorsey. The name was conceptualized in the world of vehicle dispatch; where cars and bikes zooming around town must constantly squawk to each other about where they are and what they’re up to – anyone can squawk from anywhere. Dorsey visualized his instant messaging and LiveJournal service coming alive in real-time. SMS technology further inspired him.

In reality, Twitter didn’t have a name; just a working name called “Status”. They were hunting for a name that can capture the feeling – the physical sensation that you’re buzzing your friend’s pocket as if it’s like buzzing all over the world. During name-storming, they came out with “twitch” because the phone kind of vibrates when it moves but “twitch” was not a good product name because it doesn’t bring up the right imagery. They looked in the dictionary for words around it, and came across the word “twitter” – which means “chirps from birds.”

2) Google

Google How It Gets Its NameThe Original Name: Googol

How it Started:

Google began in January 1996 as a research project by Larry Page and Sergey Brin when they were both PhD students at Stanford University in California. Both wanted a better search engine system that analysed the relationships between websites. The technology used in determining website’s relevance was called “PageRank”. Page and Brin originally nicknamed their new search engine “BackRub”, because the system checked backlinks to estimate the importance of a site.

They original name was “Googol” which in fact is a very huge number – 10100, that is, the digit 1 followed by one hundred zeros. Googol was actually invented in 1938 by 9-year-old Milton Sirotta (1929-1981), nephew of American mathematician Edward Kasner. Larry Page and Sergey Brin misspell “Googol to become Google” to signify that the search engine wants to provide large quantities of information for people. A very good feng-shui name indeed as it also signify a very huge amount of fortunes.

3) Yahoo

Yahoo How It Gets Its NameThe Original Name: Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web

How it Started:

Two founders, David Filo and Jerry Yang, Ph.D. candidates in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, started their guide, “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web” in a campus trailer in February 1994 as a way to keep track of their personal interests on the Internet. They were spending so much time listing their favourite links that eventually their lists became too long and they broke them into categories and when that became too full, they developed sub-categories hence the birth of Yahoo! concept. With the help of dictionary, “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web” was changed to Yahoo! – an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle”

However, Filo and Yang insist they selected the name because they liked the general definition of a yahoo – “rude, unsophisticated, uncouth.” Yahoo! itself first resided on Yang’s student workstation, “Akebono,” while the software was lodged on Filo’s computer, “Konishiki” – both named after legendary sumo wrestlers.

4) Apple

Apple How It Gets Its NameThe Original Name: None

How it Started:

Apple Computer Inc. was founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, two friends who shared an interest in electronics and belonged to the same computer club. There’re different versions of how the company name came to be known as Apple. The best-known version is that Steve Jobs worked summer jobs at a California apple farm. He also liked the Beatles and their label, Apple Records.

According to Wozniak, both he and Steve were driving along the Highway 85 between Palo Alto and Los Altos. Steve Jobs came up with a name “Apple Computers” during that trip. But Wozniak was dead worry about copyright problems but nevertheless they decided that if they couldn’t think of anything better by the end of the day, they’d go with the name “Apple”.

And they couldn’t, so the name was born. Both Wozniak and Jobs actually tried other alternate names such as Executex and Matrix Electronics, but they didn’t like it as much as Apple Computers.

5) Go Daddy

Go Daddy How It Gets Its NameThe Original Name: Jomax Technologies

How it Started:

Go Daddy was founded in 1997 as Jomax Technologies by Bob Parsons. In 1999 when a group of employees were brainstorming on a more memorable name than Jomax Technologies, someone suggested “Big  Daddy”. It was a cool name but unfortunately the domain name was taken hence Parsons suggested “Go Daddy” instead. They checked the domain name availability and CEO Bob Parsons immediately bought it.

In 2010, Go Daddy reached more than 45 million domain names under its management and is currently the largest ICANN-accredited registrar in the world. On July 2011, Go Daddy was sold to KKR and Silver Lake Partners for an estimated US$2.25 billion.

6) Skype

Skype How It Gets Its NameThe Original Name: Sky peer-to-peer

How it Started:

Skype was founded in 2003 by Niklas Zennström from Sweden, Janus Friis from Denmark and Samuel Gray from New Jersey. Skype was the brainchild of software developers from Estonia, the same group of guys that brought the world Kazaa, one of the prominent file sharing programs that operated in the wake of Napster’s shutdown.

The initial name for the project that turned into Skype was “Sky peer-to-peer”, which was then abbreviated to “Skyper”. But the domain names associated with “Skyper” were already taken so they dropped the final “r” in order to secure the domain name “Skype”

7) Zynga

Zynga How It Gets Its NameThe Original Name: None

How it Started:

Zynga is perhaps the most successful social gaming company with over 270 million monthly active users on Facebook. Zynga’s games such as CityVille, FarmVille, Zynga Poker and FrontierVille are the most widely played games on Facebook. Zynga was founded in January 2007 by Mark Pincus, Scott Sale and Kyle Stewart. Zynga got its name from an American bulldog once owned by Mark Pincus. Pincus’s deceased bulldog, Zinga, is now used as the company’s symbol.

8 ) Facebook

Facebook How It Gets Its NameThe Original Name: Facemash

How it Started:

On Oct 2003, Mark Zuckerberg wrote Facemash, a site that, according to the Harvard Crimson, represented a Harvard University version of Hot or Not. Facemash used photos compiled from the online facebooks of nine Houses, placing two next to each other at a time and asking users to choose the “hotter” person. Zuckerberg hacked into the protected areas of Harvard’s computer network and copied the houses’ private dormitory ID images for this purpose. Harvard at that time did not have a student directory with photos, and basic information and the initial site generated 450 visitors and 22,000 photo-views in its first four hours online.

Inspired by Facemash incident, Zuckerberg began writing code for a new website and on February 4, 2004, Zuckerberg launched “Thefacebook”, originally located at thefacebook.com. Six days after the site launched, three Harvard seniors, Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra, accused Zuckerberg of intentionally misleading them into believing he would help them build a social network called HarvardConnection.com, while he was instead using their ideas to build a competing product. The three later filed a lawsuit against Zuckerberg, subsequently settling.

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