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.
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).
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."
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
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.
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.
Yahoo is actually an acronym for "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle." But according to the company, the team chose the name for its definition: "rude, unsophisticated, uncouth."
Adobe founders John Warnock and Chuck Geschke were working for Xerox during the late 70s and early 80s, and living in Los Altos, CA, and Adobe Creek just happens run through the town.
According to the creek's Wikipedia page, it was named for the nearby house of a 19th Century governor. So, at least in some sense, the company was named for the building material.
Despite popular belief, the way that the buttons look a bit like the seeds of a berry wasn't taken into account. The name BlackBerry was purely a marketing decision. The communications team offered up this explanation in an e-mail:
"RIM wanted a name that would be distinctive, memorable and fun and that would work well internationally and appeal to a wide range of customers. RIM decided to go with a connotative word for the brand name rather than a descriptive or invented word."
Nintendo Is Company Name and Motto All in One
Apple has no official story, which means that you can take your pick of the following rumors:
Steve Jobs used to work at a California or Oregon apple farm during the summer. He grew to really appreciate apples. Steve Jobs really liked the Beatles. Steve Jobs was three months late filing a name for the business, and he threatened to call his company Apple Computers if his colleagues didn't suggest a better name by 5 p.m. Steve Jobs wanted to distance the company from the cold, unapproachable, complicated imagery created by other computer companies at the time. You probably have your own theories, so let us know in the comments below.
Zappos was originally named ShoeSite.com when it was founded in 1999. This posed a bit of a problem when it wanted to start selling more than just shoes. While still quite fond of shoes, the team didn't abandon the theme entirely. They decided on a variation of the word "shoes" in Spanish. Thus "zapatos" was converted to Zappos for the company name.
The three words "Nin" "ten" "do" is Japanese for "we do all that we can, as best as we can, and await the results." Nintendo is sort of a motto and company name all in one. Who knew that the gaming giant was so poetic?
Today, Aardvark has a sleek website where users can type or e-mail their questions to be answered by the appropriate people in their own social networks. But co-founder Max Ventilla's idea began as a chat buddy that could intermediate conversations with people you know online.
There were advantages to having this name at the top of the buddy list, a spot which was occupied on Ventilla's buddy roster by his friend Aaron. Alphabetically speaking, there aren't many options that trump Aaron. "Aardvark" is one of the few names that could shoulder him out.
Other factors the name had going for it were its ability to conjugate into the invented active verb "vark," and being an animal that people recognized but typically didn't have strong associations with.
"We also felt that an animal had the right positioning as helpful but not perfect," said Ventilla in an e-mail. "If we chose a human or a robot mascot people would spend their time trying to make it look stupid, but they'd cut an animal more slack."