The company behind the best file replicator of the modern age is now known as
This change took an excruciatingly long time, so here's a bit of background along with some field notes and takeaways.
7 years ago
The original company name -
- was picked in 2012, when the company was formed.
The plan back then was to make a distributed network profiling and monitoring system, tentatively called
. As quirky as it was, the name quite accurately predicted what happened next - the project did
So not few months later we ended up switching to another idea - a proper, production rewrite of the original
. It was a file backup program that I wrote over a weekend few years prior and that was getting an unexpected amount of traction despite all my efforts to ignore it.
The company name remained though and according to it we were still knee-deep in the pipe measurement business. Even had a logo to match -
That's an undersea network cable cross-section... or at least an artist's impression of the same.
In any case, all this was around 7 years ago.
4 years ago
The discrepancy between the product and the company name was one concern. Another concern surfaced a bit later on, when Windows 10 with its pervasive telemetry was released and more people started paying closer attention to the tracking and privacy matters.
And there we were, making an offline software for handling one's private data, and yet we were called
. What was it that we were
Neither of these concerns required an immediate name change, but they lingered. And so about 3 years in we started looking for a better name.
There are only two hard things in computer science:
cache invalidation and naming things.
is just factually wrong.
Naming things is not hard. It is an utterly frustrating and painful,
process that drains all fun from life and creative juices even from those who didn't have them to begin with.
Sometimes you can stumble upon a great name in a matter of seconds, but more often you don't. Or you just google it up and realize that you are the N-th heir to the throne, ten years too late.
Say, you want to name something that deals with
should not be hard. Ding - "dat" is taken, and you haven't even considered it yet.
Pfft, lol. Are you kidding? Taken.
Quirky, weird. No way anyone else would think it up.
You'd think. Taken.
In fact, taken so long ago that people now complain how much better it was in the good old days, whenever that was.
You know - uranium, unobtanium, pinacoladium.
Days go by and all that you can come up with are just OK-ayish bland names, each flawed in more ways than one, and most of them even without a matching dot-com domain.
Inevitably, you start looking for a way to make the process more formal, structured, predictable. To keep track of the "progress" and not to cover the same ground twice.
The good news is that it
doable. The bad news is that genuinely
names are still a matter of luck and random insipiration.
Part 1 - Keywords and associations
The name needs to be unique and memorable, obviously.
The shorter the better. There are exceptions, of course, but the rule of thumb is that it should be 3-4 syllables max.
It needs to be
and it should not have any negative connotations. Yes,
, there's an irony in here somewhere.
In fact, looking back this is probably the most important property of a good name - it needs to roll off the tongue and leave a good
That impression should be strong and memorable, even more so than the name itself. While people tend to forget specific names, the
stick around for much longer.
To that end good names often have an unusual, but an otherwise obvious
with whatever they are attached to.
An excellent example of this is a
Distributed storage indeed. How ridiculously good.
Naturally, there are great names that don't have any explicit associations.
does have a very good
behind it, but it's not obvious. However the name is simple and it sounds nice, so it is easy to remember just because of that.
Same goes for
, originally standing for Sky Peer-to-Peer.
is yet another example, except that it's a completely made up word. George Eastman, the founder of the company, liked the
the sound of the letter K made, so he went on to find a name that was "
short, easy to pronounce, and not resemble any other name
The year was 1888.
Finding a good association is a matter of certain luck, but the chances can be improved by formalizing the process.
By brute-forcing it basically.
Start by defining what it is that the company (product, gadget, whatever) does and what it is about. Compile a list of relevant
. Then for each keyword add several more - synonyms, related concepts, ideas, references.
Repeat several times.
The end result will be a list comprising both very specific and very abstract things that can be used as latches for an association.
For us, being in a data preservation domain, it went something like this:
The list was over 50 entries long, stretching as far as "bastion", "marmalade" and "formaldehyde".
The problem, of course, is that a keyword alone usually doesn't make for an
Part 2 - Prefixes and suffixes
Lots and lots of names follow certain patterns. These patterns can be identified, distilled and formalized.
One such pattern is adding a
Similar, but with more "edge":
Alternatively, the keyword itself can be equipped with a
This tends to result in a rather pompous and boring enterprise-y names, which sometimes may actually be desirable:
Infocom, Unisys, Commware, Microsoft, Symantec, Datamark, Netcraft, etc.
prefix to the word is yet another option:
InterPlay (of the Descent game fame), ParaData, HyperLoop, etc.
One other option I feel I must mention is that mixing
into any technical name tends to make it dramatically better.
The association here is that with
that carry an incredible mix of mathematical elegance and complexity.
"Maxwell" also sounds nice, and it is just 2 syllables long.
As a result, we had
on the short list. In the end it lost to other options, but I still think it was a great name, full of technical competence and credibility at no extra charge :)
Part 3 - Word mangling
Mangling a keyword is yet another way of turning it into an unique name.
If we were back in the .com era, prepending an
to everything would've sounded like an excellent idea. Still have fond memories working in a place called eTunnels.
Dropping a vowel
was an equally acceptable option with a great following - Flickr, Tumblr, etc.
letters also worked, e.g. Dribbble or FFFFound.
In fact, there was also
, which boldly went where nobody dared, both dropping and duplicating like there's no tomorrow.
's and dropping trailing vowels tends to make words sound vaguely
Objective becomes Objektiv, which can pass for a noun.
Accurate - Akkurat, etc.
can help adding some
flavor to the name. We would've gone this route except that we are in a French-speaking canton and it didn't seem like the right thing to do.
tends to create
-sounding words, e.g. Apertura, Machina, Textura, etc.
Similarly, tweaking the word to end with
results in a Latin-scientific feel.
Fast forward 4 years of episodic search spurts and we had a list of names with quite a few candidates on it. Here it is, with just few entries trimmed:
Data Mechanics - really liked this one, actually, a good pun
Data Matters - similar, also double-meaning
Data Associates - only if in hopes of being acquired by
Data Committee - implied that we don't get any real work done
Swiss Data Works
Swiss Data Reserve - implied that we are a storage provider
Data & Loss - the barristers
* As per the theory that the
is caused by neutrinos
Corelion - as in Coreli-on, not Core-lion
Hyper - with "Hyper Abc" as product names
Struktura - also liked this one a lot, but the .com is squatted
And the winner is...
It's reasonably short.
It rhymes when pronounced.
It's generic enough to cover more than just backup software.
It also can be made to look both like
when rasterized down to a small size. Not terribly important, but having a simple symbol to go with the name is always a plus.
, ladies and gentlemen, until we decide to rename ourselves again we shall be known as the
In case you want to try your hand at finding a good sounding, but otherwise random name, here are some pointers:
To search for words with specific ending.
List of last names
To make your own
Bang & Olufsen
Lists of gods
Quite a few solid leads there.
List of Intel project codenames
Skylake, Ice Lake, etc. Mostly geographical landmarks.
List of Microsoft project codenames
Not as consistent as Intel's, but still worth a read.
List of Solar System objects
Including a handy list of
List of planets in science fiction
Examples of names made up by other people.
List of fantasy worlds
Long-running series on re/branding by UnderConsideration,
Origins of well-known company names
3M = Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, etc.
A list of Y-Combinator funded startups, if only to see how
hard it really is to come up with a truly memorable name.
The Weird Science of Naming New Products
An NYT article that follows the naming of a very high-profile project. Perhaps with no directly actionable insight, but really interesting nonetheless.
This is a really
deep dive into scientific aspects behind naming and name perception. Fantastic resource... though a bit like trying to learn how to fry a steak by studying metallurgy and proteins :) Be warned that you may end up being even more confused than before.
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