BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : NOVEMBER 20, 2000 ISSUE
BUSINESS WEEK E.BIZ -- THE DIGITAL LIFESTYLE

Weird Names and Ham
Where descriptive words go in herds and goofball names hide empty domains

Those dot-com guys,
Those dot-com guys,
I do not get those dot-com guys.
I do not get how most make money.
I do think that their names are funny.

Tell me truly, truly dear,
About these names you do here hear:
Google, Yipes, Zhone, and Yack,
Yotta, Whoosh, Noosh, and Quack,
Arzoon, Backflip, Zoza, Pixo,
Bot, Slashdot, eYada, Yahoo!

Don't they sound like pals from Seuss?
Hortons, Yertles, Turtles, Whos?
Angry Monkey, Zilch, and Ratso,
Snippets, Swirl, Trapezo, Zatso.

Don't they make you laugh out loud?
Are they laughing at Loudcloud?

Snippets, Quokka, them at Zing,
Fatbrain, Wildbrain--Another thing:
Can you figure what they do?
Sporting names like Beenz and Flooz.

Gamasutra, Libida, Ezula
Are they sexy or trying to fool ya?

These days you can't just name a business,
You need a URL that has lotsa whiz-ness.

But Abracat, MojoNation, and Purple Yogi
Sound straight from the comic strips to this old fogey.

So I went and asked some experts: Hey
What about these names today?
Is this weirdness a passing thing
Like Razor scooters and mood rings?

Is it a phase? Does it stem from youth?
Is it spreading to technologies like Blue Tooth?

First I called those fine folks at Landor.
Amy Becker's a naming pro with lots of candor.
She said clients spend millions with us here
To obtain great names that ring the ear.
We proudly did Lucent, Kanisa, and Agilent.
They'll resonate for decades thanks to our big talent.
She says dot-com clients have two points of view:
Some want names dead-on descriptive, the others say ''Foo!''

Give us something that sings, and snaps, crackles, and pops.
Without a weird name we could be great big flops.

But from Becker's heart she reveals a devotion
To names that are more than gurgles of emotion.
''Landor believes the best names have some meaning,''
she explained in a way neither brash nor demeaning.

These fun, playful names quickly run out of steam
If you don't have a good business (just ask Boo what that means).

Becker says over time the need for memorability
Will give way as search engines improve capability.
Makes sense, but still I sought with some trepidation:
What's really behind these bizarre appellations?

One Freudian I called says hormones may be at work.
Hmm, does that explain Deep Bridge, Oloop, and Encirq?
''Playfulness is a sublimation of erotic pleasure,''
says Dr. Audrey Kavka in tones quite measured.
She says dot-com names scream creativity.
But long working hours limit romantic connectivity.

I cannot argue with the doctor, No Ma'am!
But I still don't get Yodlee, DayNine, or Yazam.

What happens when all the wacky nomenclatures are gone?
Did that lead to the naming of Notboring.com?

It's true cybersquatters snap up everything clever
And remotely relevant to every e-biz endeavor.
For example, I learned the site name Pow.com
Is for sale. The ad claims: ''High-impact'' sound.

If you happen to carry 700,000 pounds of sterling
It could buy you these letters if you're yearning.
I ask: For ''Pow,'' who'll part with that much dough?
A crime fighter? A gear-seller for Tae Kwan Do?

Another part of this wild name-o-rama
Are the stealth names that lead to lots of drama.

Those phoney pre-launch code words, often sublime;
Who knew Palo Alto Coffee would become Xtime?

Over at Zendoo mum is the word,
Such a deliciously meaningless lark of a word!
After it debuted, FireDrop became Zaplet.
Well, that sure solves the mystery, doesn't it?

As they run out of options, many startups go in herds
To AltaVista's translator where they type descriptive words.
Terms that actually describe the product or the thrust
Of the business they're in, specificity's a must.

Then they click the button for Hawaiian or Kurd,
Portuguese, Greek, even Spanish, I heard.
An instant name, an instant mythology,
They get a brand-spanking-new exotic tautology.

Like Kanisa--a Lingalan word for ''know,''
But be careful getting too clever, so
That you don't end up picking names that backhand
Speakers of languages you don't understand.

Party invitation site Evite was not overjoyed
When it learned that evite in some tongues means ''avoid.''

And oh the battles, and oh the disputes
Over names that the owners just thought were so cute.

There's an industry of agents and legal gunslingers
Who are getting good money pointing all kinds of fingers.

When somebody small registered ''Chunky monkey''
All of Ben & Jerry's got really grumpy.
And those poor dot-com car guys at Model E
Ended up in a lawsuit with Ford Motor Company.

The time is coming, fast I think,
When goofball names won't seem so pink.

Geekapalooza will prompt a sneer.
Even Razorfish could turn dull, I fear.

Besides, a move is afoot, one that many are backing
To take aim at domain name styles about which I am yakking.
Instead of cramming big ideas between dubyas and dot-coms
We might switch to key words to speed searches along.

Then what will the dot-coms do?
Tell me
Tell me
Tell me, You!

There was a time in the Pre-Internet Age
When nice, short, clear names were the rage.

There was Sun, of course, and Apple and Dell.
They're really kinda simple, but also kinda swell.

But then I guess when those came out
The IBMs and HPs gave a small shout:
Who are these upstarts? Who are they trying to kid?
Why don't they pick serious names like we did?
By JOAN O'C. HAMILTON, joan_hamilton@ebiz.businessweek.com

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

BACK TO TOP
EBIZ Cover Image, link to ebiz table of contents
EBIZ Contents for issue dated Nov. 20, 2000




INTERACT
E-Mail to Business Week Online

 
Copyright 2000-2009, Bloomberg L.P.
Terms of Use   Privacy Notice