Friday, January 13, 2017

Oh, that Wild, Whimsical Web!

The Internet was built by a bunch of university snobs.

The World Wide Web — not the same thing as the Internet! — was built by a bunch of intellectual scientists.

The Information Superhighway was built by Al Gore. (Just ask him, he’ll tell you!)

But the soul of all digital information delivery systems was built by a bunch of long-haired Silicon Valley nerds.

Want proof? Just look at company names.

For decades, what was the name of the company that was the world leader in computer technology? IBM. It stands for International Business Machines. They made their mark with adding machines. And time clocks. Uh. Huh.

In the early 1980s, what was the name of the company that created the world leading operating system for personal computers? Micro. Soft. Microsoft. Get it? Micro-computer software. Had to think a long time about that one, didn’t you, Bill?

But what company emerged as one of the first Internet search engines, later to become a leading portal for information delivery? Yahoo! With an exclamation point! Literally!

And what company came up a few years later to become the leader in search and just about everything else digital? Google. Without an exclamation point — but with a really cool name. It’s a play on the word “googol”, which means a number with a hundred zeros — literally greater than the number of protons in the observable universe.

And it kinda looks like the word “giggle”, which amplifies its coolness.

The world of Internet branding is littered with little nuggets of triviality. The name “Amazon” originally stood for the world’s largest bookstore, named after the world’s largest river. Wikipedia was named after a bus in Hawaii, which was named after a Hawaiian word for “quick”. eBay was named after the consulting company of its founder. Apple was named after a fruit as an afterthought, and was allowed to keep that name only after they promised Apple Records that they would never, ever enter the business of selling music.

I could go on. Zappos. Twitter. Pinterest. All big names on the Internet. And just saying their name makes you want to smile.

Industrial giants of old tended to have industrial-sounding names: Kodak. Standard Oil. General Electric. United Technologies. Hrummppph!

It’s nice to see that digital companies of today recognize the importance of a good brand. But they also see that a whimsical brand name doesn’t cheapen the value of their stock. It only makes it more memorable. And more fun to say.

Think about that next time you giggle about Google.

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