The best and the worst Internet names of the decade

However, the number of brands generated in this ambit and in this period of time has been enormous. It has been a breeding ground and a melting pot of examples, spectacular successes and failures which have been useful to, once again, evaluate the importance of naming in new brands or categories. Through their international trend monitors, Nombra has detected several trends in naming in this hectic decade. Get to know them:

1. “Compound and/or juxtaposed brandnames” which connect and sound well.

Sometimes, the union of two words is better than one, particularly when they express a new way of doing things or a new business model. “Coupling” of descriptive (Facebook, Stubhub), suggestive (Linkedin) or evocative (Snapfish) names may be useful. But when two words are not obviously related, complement each other, or have a common field of action to provide sense, they become an “incidental coupling” (“incidental juxtaposition”). If there is no sense, we all know how briefly they will last and the contradictions they will generate in people’s minds and tongues as they are pronounced. They end up being forgotten.

Good: You Tube

Intuitive, attractive, popular. Using the retro word “tube” for TV evokes something easy to use: intelligent for a new application that might have been perceived as intimidating high technology. Verbalization invites to the action of watching.

Bad: Talk-Shoe

What does that mean? The name is a pun that uses American presenter Ed Sullivan’s pronunciation of the word “show” in his old show in the USA. Too far. Nobody will make the connection. Coupling has to be easy and almost intuitive.

2. “The magicians”

These are certain evocative words that may make a brandname memorable when they reach the core of a brand’s story (for example: Yelp). But the border between restlessness and puzzlement may be very subtle.

Good: Twitter

The name makes users think of brief gusts of information and the chirping of birds up in the trees, as well as the emotion and excitement they produce, in a quite enigmatic way. It is an extensible name. It evokes a fast and wide vocabulary that makes you fly: from tweet (post) to twitfriend (friend to chat and have a laugh) and twitpic (sending pictures.)

Bad: MOO

The name is more appropriate for cows, milk, cheese, ice-cream or related products. Not so good to offer a web of printing services.

3. “The letter remover”

The problem with this trend and abbreviation system is that it is so characteristic that you need to make sure that an imitation does not exist unless you are the first to appear. And in case you remove more than one letter, you may face problems. As an example, Motorola’s mobile phone SLVR: Does it stand for silver, sliver or sleever? And what about “Scribd”? Does it stand for scribed or scribbled?

Good: Flickr

The image of a camera flickering is important to share pictures in a familiar way, while the letter-remover – a new naming convention – suggests state-of-the-art technology.

Bad: istalkr.

Unsuccessful, unpronounceable, not memorable and forced.

4. “The assembly line”

These are united or articulated names that come from words with valid associations which have easy, notorious, rich and surprising results (example: Gizmodo – the gizmos blog). But both the tone and the message should be correct.

Good: Wikipedia

The unusual of the name makes it easy, fresh, daily and funny, while the evocation both to encyclopedia and to speed (wiki in Hawaiian means fast) is very sound in its form, style and meaning.

Bad: Nupedia

The clumsy claim of novelty (pronounced as new) sounds old-fashioned from the very beginning. Furthermore, it runs the risk of “venturing” a new brand identity based on the novelty in the world of the Internet. On the Internet, this promise may be far from “nu” before long. Its proximity to “nude” does not help either, it rather distorts it to other worlds.

5. “Wrong spelling”

This type of names should be watched, as they often lead to disaster. They are often hard to remember (Ideeli, Scrybe), pronounce or spell (Myngle, Wotnext, Itzbig, Fairtilizaer or Gravee) and make memorability, search and typing difficult. They create confusion and do not help.

Good: Boku

The French word “beaucoup” is a very good choice for an online payment service, and for many Anglo-Saxons, bad spelling makes it even more intuitive and attractive.

Bad: Cuil

Even though it is meant to be pronounced as “cool”, who can understand it? Rule number 1: Names never need to come with a pronunciation guide of usage.

6. “The craftsman of words”

These names show again that years go by fast. And there is nothing more pathetic in naming than an obvious attempt to look cool (as in Dogster, Agester, Tallster), when you even arrive late to the market.

Good: Friendster

Maybe not too surprising, but the name’s connotation helped Usher to enter the era of social networks properly.

Bad: Napster

With its terrible legal consequences, associated to music kidnapping, nappies or napkins.

7. “Double or quits”

Repeating a letter in a common word works better when the resulting word is recognizable, and the addition of the second letter has a purpose, otherwise it just complicates its pronunciation. (e.g. Gawwk).

Good: Digg

Intuitive and evocative, its double “g” reinforces the deep nature of the research and is also graphically interesting.

Bad: Diigo

A website for bookmarks, the double “i” breaks the semantic connection and misleads pronunciation. Besides, as it is very similar to Diggs, it seems not quite original.

8. “The letters e-, i- ; and the I/my”

The “e/i” in a name may soon become unnecessary and redundant on the Internet, and it is already a bit old-fashioned (many older names used it). It is now a bit boring and belongs to the past. The I/my (as in MySpace) tends to be not quite surprising or memorable anymore.

Good: iContact

For an e-mail provider, the “i” works at three different levels: “I contact”, “eye contact” and of course “Internet contact”.

Bad: eSnailer; eBaum’s World; eXpresso. Forced and strange.

9. “Abstract names”

These words have no recognizable semantic root and may be used as umbrella names for a company that intends to expand to different markets or uses. But the new name needs to be pronounceable and sound distinctive or relevant. If names are not appropriate in form or sonority, they become a real word puzzle, such as Disaboom, Xoopit, Yebol and Goozex. They hurt in the ear!

Good: Kaaza

Reminds of “huzzah” or “hurrah”, meaning excitement, admiration and joy.

Bad: Eefoof

It is a vintage web 2.0: difficult spelling, absurd, and totally senseless.

10. “The Foreigner”

The words and names created from less known languages may also become very distinctive abstracts, particularly when its meaning provides a platform to the brand’s story. The trick is to find words that are easy to pronounce and pleasant to the ear (such as Kijiji, a website whose name in Swahili means village).

Good: Hulu

This is an example of the good use of an abstract name for an entertainment company who wishes to keep their future development options open (ironically, the word means empty pumpkin in Mandarin Chinese). The word – which rhymes – is fun, evokes the Hawaiian dance “hula” and suggests something fun and casual.

Bad: Jwaala

Sounds like a tongue-twister and it is complicated.

Getting to know and identify these trends may help us prevent other naming errors on the Internet, as well as gain perspective and new opportunities when facing new Internet challenges.

Francesc Arquimbau.
Manager of Nombra (Coleman CBX)

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