How did popular tech brands get their names?
At OggaDoon, we love diving into brands and finding out their stories. Some of the most well known apps, search engines, websites and gadgets have really interesting stories behind their names. We decided to delve in and find out more...
In the 1990s the wireless communication field was being developed. Multiple corporations were competing which led to non-compatible standards of technology. Jim Kardach, an Intel engineer, was working on wireless technologies. He had been reading a book that featured King Harald Bluetooth, the Viking King of Denmark who reigned from 872-930 and united parts of Denmark and Norway. Kardach viewed the king as a symbol of unification between competing parties.
The competing wireless innovators united to form the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, which developed today’s Bluetooth standard. Bluetooth was intended to be a placeholder, but the name took off and still remains.
The term WiFi was developed when the wireless industry was seeking a name to refer to technology that adhered to standards known as IEEE 802.11. WiFi Alliance hired Interbrand, a branding agency, to come up with ideas and one of the 10 names proposed was WiFi.
A longer term for WiFi is Wireless Fidelity. This name was given because some members of WiFi Alliance didn’t want a name without a meaning behind it. Therefore, the tagline ‘The Standard for Wireless Fidelity’ was created alongside the name.
Googolplex is the name for 10 to the power of googol. Googol is the name used by mathematicians to reference 10 to the power of 100. Larry Page, co-founder and CEO of Google and Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, liked the name googol because it reflected the vastness of the web.
In 1998, one of Page and Brin’s Stanford classmates, Sean Anderson, wrote names down on a whiteboard, trying to decide on the right one. ‘Googolplex’ was proposed, and the ‘Googol’ part was misspelled as Google, the brand name we know today.
Unlike most other Voice over IP (VoIP) services, Skype is a hybrid peer-to-peer client server system that was founded in 2003. The co-founders, Niklas Zenström and Janus Friis wanted this to be reflected in the name so the first iteration was ‘Sky Peer-to-Peer’ since the connection utilised peer-to-peer technology that worked without wires. This then developed into ‘Skyper’ to make it more catchy. However, skyper.com was already registered so they called their creation Skype.
Despite the fact that the name changed from ‘Sky Peer-to-Peer’ to Skype, Zenström and Friis still kept a nod to the sky element of the original name in previous logos designs that depicted a cloud engulfing the word Skype.
Founder Jeff Bezos originally planned to call his company “Cadabra”, an abbreviation of “abracadabra”. However, when his lawyer misheard this as “cadaver” he decided to think of a new name.
When Amazon was founded in 1994 Seattle, it was advantageous to have a brand name that began with an ‘A’ so it was at the start of the phonebook. This led Bezos to look through the dictionary to find a suitable name starting with ‘A’. He eventually settled on Amazon because it referred to the biggest river in the world. 26 years later and Amazon is one of the biggest businesses in the world.
Nintendo’s roots go back to 1889 when the company produced playing cards. These handmade playing cards were called ‘hanafuda’, or Japanese flower cards. In Japanese, Nintendo roughly translates as ‘leave luck to heaven’ or ‘in heaven’s hands’. However, there has been some debate over whether the translation could be even more literal than this. Another interpretation of the word Nintendo could mean ‘the temple of free hanafuda’, or ‘the company that is allowed to make (or sell) hanafuda’.
Nearly 100 years later, the company went into the toy industry and eventually the video game market.
When the co-founders of Apple, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, were deciding a name for the company in 1976 California, Jobs was a fruitarian. Jobs often visited organic farms to collect fruits and, when he and Wozniak were trying to decide on a name for the company, he had just returned from a visit to a communal apple farm. This led him to propose the name ‘Apple Computer’ as he believed it sounded “fun, spirited and not intimidating”. Another reason for choosing the name Apple was because, similarly to Amazon, it meant it would be at the beginning of the phonebook. In 1980 Jobs said his company is called Apple “partially because Apple is ahead of Atari in the phone book and I used to work at Atari.”
eBay started as ‘AuctionWeb’ in 1995. AuctionWeb was a website dedicated to bringing together buyers and sellers in an open and honest marketplace (so not much has changed there).
AuctionWeb grew in popularity and led to founder Pierre Omidyar’s internet service provider informing him that he would need to upgrade to a business account due to the high volume of traffic to his website. When this happened, Omidyar decided to spin it off into its own entity called ‘Echo Bay’ after his consulting firm, Echo Bay Technology Group. The domain name echobay.com was already taken, so Omidyar shortened it to eBay.