The Web’s Baby Babble

startup namesTumblr, Flickr, Forkly, Mingly and Grovo. Twitter with its tweets and peeps. Digg, reddit, Bebo and Mixi. Folkd, oovoo and Zoomr. Prezi and scribd. Badoo, Rapt, Mubi and Wooxie. Spotify, Blippy and Twilio. Zynga, Scribd and Tsy. Pet names? No, the Web’s Baby Babble startup names.

All are (or were) real companies, social media or web 2.0 platforms—some better some worse, some useful some mere copycats and others just a waste of time. But they have one thing in common: Their names are pretentious and annoying. Spelled lower case or upper case and backward and what not. I am not really sure anymore. Web 2.0 galore. Well done!

“There is a fashion in American language culture right now to be playful in a way that is often childlike,” linguist John  McWhorter told the New York Times. “This business of leaving out the vowels and leaving you to wonder how to pronounce something, it channels this kid-ness in a way — like saying ‘because science,’ or the way we’re using -y, when we say something like, ‘well, it got a little yell-y.’ ”

To all you Silicon Valley and Alley cats: Enough already. Give it a rest. Don’t try too hard to be original. All you came up with was yet another syllable in a crowd of too many other similar syllables. But we are able to remember names with more than one syllable, you know. Regardless of what your branding guru says.

Please ditch your babyish sounds. Don’t make us repeat them Don’t let us read them, as in: “Hey peeps, ICYMI, have you digged (dug?) and pinned my flickr pix, shared them with your Mingly contacts and oovooed about them? xoxo”


I am sure you invested a lot of work and thoughts in your startups. But your “look-how-fresh-and-original-and-non-conformist-we-are!” names feel  as if they were named by a bunch of pseudo free-spirits, Google-crowd and Millennials’ pleasers and SEO-obsessed hipster wannabes.

Yes, at last you may sit on your bouncy ball chair in your toy-filled office, maybe mega profits within your reach. But must you be so obsessed with names? And with the introduction of new custom internet extensions, it soon will get even sillier. Please, let it go.


Others Weigh In:

Where Have All the Vowels Gone? (New York Times)
“The first step in the next stage of language’s inevitable evolution—or devolution—may have already hppnd. […] Panicked that we might be sliding (even more quickly) toward a fully emoticon-based pictographic language.”

How to Name a Startup (Mashable)

How Today’s Hottest Startups Got Their Names (Mashable):
“…[S]ome of our favorite startups were sired by picking names out of hats, by throwing out odd proper nouns that might be cheap domain names and by haphazardly removing vowels.”

Want Your Startup Name in the Dictionary? Chose Wisely (Mashable):
“Many startups have chosen to use the “-ster” suffix, as in Flixster, Friendster, Napster, Dogster, Feedster, […] to “indicate action.” The original usage can be traced back to 1936, to a word you may not realize also doubles a brand name: Dumpster. The Dempster brothers played on their last name, and the term became the industry term for a “standardized metal waste container.”

The New Rules of Naming (Seth Godin, who named Squidoo):
“Find a name that came up with close to zero Google matches. […] [T]he very structure of the word now communicates meaning. Web 2.0 names often have missing (or extra) vowels. The “oo” double o is a great way to communicate a certain something about a net company. […] The shift, then, is from what the words mean to what the words remind you of. The structure of the words, the way they sound, the memes they recall.”

The 15 Dumbest Names for Web 2.0 Startups (The Next Web).
From 2008, yet still funny.

Startups Explain How They Chose Their Names (The Next Web):
“Whether you pay for a professional branding agency, or sit around in a pub brainstorming with friends, it’s entirely up to you how you derive your name. The end, it seems, justifies the means.”

The Name Game (The Next Web):
Pongr is a US startup turning brand loyalty into a game, […] although it may struggle to gain a large following in the UK, where “Pong” is slang for a bad smell.”

10 Company Name Types and its pro and cons (The Name Inspector Blog):
[Pun] names are words or phrases that have been modified slightly to evoke an appropriate second meaning. They’re similar to blends, but they involve a coincidental similarity between part of the main word and the second evoked word. Pros: Pun names can be fun and memorable. Cons: Nothing sounds dumber than a bad pun.”

Guy Kawasaki:
If you think there’s a cool trend in naming going on, my advice is that you avoid it. It doesn’t matter whether you check the domain first, then apply these recommendations or vice versa. But please do both because saddling a great company or great product with a crappy name is a real crime.”

More on the topic:

The Sins of Past Designs

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