11 True Stories Behind Tech's Top Names

Contrary to popular belief, Pete Cashmore doesn't have an obsessive love for potatoes. Rather he dubbed his blog "Mashable" because the original site covered tech "mashups" — web projects created by combining two services, like Flickr and Google Maps.

Other companies have different strategies for naming or branding themselves or their products. And in the tech world, most of these reasons aren't apparent. Sure, everyone knows by this point that Google comes from a specific large number called a "googol" and that Microsoft combines "microcomputer" and "software." But what the heck is a Twitter?

We reached out to tech companies asking them to explain their names. What we got were 11 interesting stories that will satisfy your curiosity.

1. Twitter

The name Twitter was picked out of a hat. A small group of employees from Odeo, the San Francisco podcasting startup where Twitter initially began, had a brainstorming session. They were trying to come up with names that fit with the theme of a mobile phone buzzing in your pocket with an update.

After narrowing down the options (which included Jitter and Twitter), they wrote them down, put them in a hat, and let fate decide. Fate decided on Twitter (because clearly asking someone if they saw your latest 'jeep' is just weird).

2. Android

Apparently Andy Rubin, the co-founder and former CEO of Android, really, really likes robots. "You have to be a little bit careful when you're around Andy and his robots," says Nick Sears, the other Android co-founder, in this YouTube video. "I've seen his dog attack his robots."

3. Foursquare

Dodgeball, Dennis Crowley's first attempt at social networking for mobile phones was acquired by Google in 2005. When Google killed the project, Crowley founded an improved location-based social game he named Foursquare.

Does Dennis Crowley have some sort of unresolved childhood issues relating to playground games?

As it turns out, no he doesn't. "Dennis chose to name both companies after playground games because they were both designed to be fun and playful," said Foursquare's PR manager in an e-mail. Apparently Foursquare was actually always Crowley's first choice, but the domain name wasn't available when he founded Dodgeball.

Creative Names Inspired by Nature, Public Broadcasting

4. 37signals

As with so many great things, the name 37signals was inspired by PBS. Carlos Segura, one of the original partners of the company was watching a science show called NOVA. He learned that in the search for extraterrestrials, humans constantly analyze radio waves from outer space. While almost all of the signal sources have been identified, 37 signals remain unexplained.

As for the camping theme, there's no great explanation. "Camping… It just happened," wrote founder Jason Fried in an e-mail. "Basecamp was the first product and then we sort of ran with it. But Highrise and Sortfolio didn't follow the theme. If we can follow it, great, but it's not at all a requirement."

Still, for a company that professes to not care about names, 37signals has some pretty creative ones.

5. Yahoo!

Founders David Filo and Jerry Yang started what would become Yahoo when they were Ph.D. candidates at Stanford University. The project originally consisted of categorized lists of favorite links on the web, which made its original name, "Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web," at least accurate if not so catchy.

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