Starting Up: The Name
Jan 13, 2008 20:20

Naming a company is difficult - especially on the web. These days you need to find a name that expresses your identity correctly and is somewhere in between trendy and timeless, but which can be readily translated into a web domain. Since it's easy to start a company these days, and even easier to claim a web domain, the good names have mostly been taken.

People often wonder why all the new web companies have strange spellings or nonsense names ('flickr', 'digg', 'reddit') - that's because essentially all of the common words in most world languages have already been claimed, either by real companies or by domain squatters hoping to score another '' or '' windfall.

My other website is - and although I'm a proud Canadian I have to confess that most people out there - even in Canada - don't get the '.ca' suffix. I've lost a lot of important email because people addressed it to ''. This new venture was going to have to have a '.com' name. While you can call your company something long and specific ("Shindig Inc." seems to be a chocolate company in Richmond Hill - but I can call my venture "Shindig Digital Constructions Inc." without causing any confusion or legal problems), domain names need to be short and memorable. wasn't going to cut it.

So my partner (life partner, not business partner) and I spent several weekends in front of our computers with four browser windows next to each other: one to Google to see if a name was already being used for a company, one to to see if a domain was already taken, one to, and a last one for general browsing and wikipedia reference. We also sent lists of likely names around to friends and colleagues to see what they thought. My original thought was "Semios Software" but that's used all over the place and it didn't seem to leave much of an impression with people.

We tried literature references ("Penseroso" - taken and people didn't like it anyhow), musical references ("Sarabande" - way taken by lots of people), clever word combinations (mostly taken), obscure characters or terms from favourite films and books ("borogrove" was a finalist - a misspelling of 'borogove' from Jabberwocky - the actual name was of course taken), computer terms, ancient Greeks and Romans (no one was likely to be able to spell Philopoemen or Cincinnatus), and many more things.

At one point my partner looked up a list of colour names - and the only one that she found that was not taken was "Papaya Whip". This is about the time that she almost gave up in despair.

My despair kicked in when I thought I'd be clever and use an obscure reference from Lycidas, a John Milton poem I memorized at Oberlin. It ends with "At last he rose and twitched his mantle blue / Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new" - is the very nice looking site of a British design firm.

Most names seemed to be taken by either domain squatters, design firms, or technology / research ventures.

"shindigital" was Shannon's idea. "Shindig" was obviously taken, but not "". The by-line on my personal web site and cards for my freelance work has been "digital constructions since 1994" - so this let me keep that language a bit. It also implied something fun and a bit social - which was important for the kind of image I wanted to portray. It didn't hurt that "Shindig" was one of the more fun episodes of Joss Whedon's Firefly show, and a musical variety show from the mid-60s.

We then rushed to get the domain registered as soon as possible - lest some design firm take it at the last minute.

When it came time to actually register the company name, my lawyers were a little surprised about how laid-back I seemed to be. Frankly, after weeks of hunting for a valid web domain name, the actual legal company name was easy.

Turns out someone else also used "Shindigital" - but as their company name: "Shindigital Pictures". Not surprisingly they're also Firefly fans, and are making their own episodes of the show. They didn't get the domain name, though!

... and Shindig itself is also an Apache project implementing Google's Open Social API. It, however, started in November - and I registered the domain and the company a few months before.

The name "Shindig" has turned out to be great. It's fun, short, and has a relatively easy domain name with a '.com' at the end. The feedback from people has been great. It's also highly evocative, which has helped in designing logos and such - but that's for another post.

For your further amusement, here's a picture of my name search notes. Extra points if you can find the Swahili words, as well as a jot-note I made about getting extra RAM for my ThinkPad X30. Hey look - is already taken! Note the nice clean desk, too.

random lists of domain names on a messy desk