How Six Memorable Tech Companies Got Their Names
It's funny how fast a silly-sounding phrase can gain universal meaning.
Just think: Fifteen years ago, if I told a friend I had spent the day looking for names at Go Daddy, he would have assumed I'd gone off the deep end. If I mentioned that I also wasted some time Googling myself and Farking, he would have nodded politely and slowly backed away.
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Nowadays, of course, most people wouldn't bat an eye at those proclamations (nor would they think twice if I told them I tweeted from an iPad while on Wi-Fi -- and when you think about it, that's a seriously strange thing to say). We all accept these odd-sounding words as part of our collective vernacular, yet we never stop to think about where they actually originated.
Today, the mystery ends. We've tracked down the inside scoop on six of tech's most unforgettable names. Some of them have pretty surprising backstories -- like a well-known Web giant that was almost called "BackRub" -- while others, like our first entry, have almost no story at all.
1. Go Daddy
You have to wonder whether Go Daddy would have succeeded had the company kept its original name: Jomax Technologies.
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Jomax, founded in 1997, was named after a road founder Bob Parsons passed on his way to work each day. It was simple, it was meaningful -- but it sure wasn't memorable.
Within a couple of years, Parsons and his team realized they needed a better moniker if they were ever to make it in the crowded online world. Days of brainstorming led nowhere, but then someone -- in what we can only assume was a joke -- suggested the name "Big Daddy."
Unfortunately (or fortunately, perhaps), BigDaddy.com was already taken. But GoDaddy.com, as luck would have it, was not.
"When we first bought the Go Daddy name, we thought it might be a bit too silly to use for our name," Parsons recalls. "We continued to look for a better name but found nothing."
Wacky as it may be, the staff quickly realized "Go Daddy" was impossible to forget. With no better options in sight, they decided to stick with it -- and thus, a new Daddy was born.
For a company that routinely touts its products as being magical, the origins of Apple's name are actually quite ordinary.
There are all sorts of stories out there about the meaning of Apple. Some say it was simply Steve Jobs' favorite fruit. Others insist it was a nod to Jobs' time working at an apple orchard (man, I bet that orchard had beautiful, wonderful, really revolutionary fruit). But they all offer relatively mundane explanations for the five-letter word that's come to represent a whole way of life.
According to Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, Jobs spouted out the name while the two were driving along Highway 85 outside of Palo Alto. Woz tells the tale in the 2004 book Apple Confidential 2.0 :
"Steve was still half-involved with a group of friends who ran the commune-type All-One Farm in Oregon. And he would go up and work there for a few months before returning to the Bay Area. He had just come back from one of his trips and we were driving along and he said, ‘I've got a great name: Apple Computer.' Maybe he worked in apple trees. I didn't even ask. Maybe it had some other meaning to him. Maybe the idea just occurred based upon Apple Records. He had been a musical person, like many technical people are. It might have sounded good partly because of that connotation."
Here's what I really want to know: You think Steve wore jeans and a black turtleneck while working at the farm?
Just imagine if instead of "Googling" something, you "BackRubbed" it.
Crazy as it sounds, it could have happened. When Larry Page and Sergey Brin first started working on their search engine at Stanford, the two dubbed the creation "BackRub." (I think it's best if we don't ask why.)
When the original name lost its luster, Page and Brin decided to go with something related to the word "googol," a mathematical term that makes a million look like chump change. A googol is a one followed by a hundred zeros -- or, in technical terms, "a freakin' ginormous number."
Depending upon whom you ask, Page and Brin accidentally misspelled the word, spelled it wrong on purpose, or spelled it wrong in order to cash a (figuratively speaking) googol-sized check. According to that last account, Sun cofounder Andy Bechtolsheim wrote Page and Brin a $100,000 check to help get their business started -- but he wrote it out to "Google" instead of "Googol." Page and Brin, as the story goes, incorporated their company with the unusual spelling as a result.
Of course, they might have just gone with Google because googol.com was already taken. The domain has been registered since 1995. According to current DNS records, it belongs to a "Mrs. Jello" of Livingston, New Jersey.
Don't believe me? Google it.
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According to the site's founder, Fark is absolutely nothing. Well, sort of. Drew Curtis says he came up with the word "fark" as a random expression while surfing the Net's then-quiet corners in the early '90s. Curtis says the word was either a drunken typo or perhaps a substitution for another more colorful "F"-word; he's not entirely sure.
However it was first uttered, Fark stuck -- and when Curtis decided to register a domain name, it was one of the few four-letter words still available (gee, I wonder why). Two years later, Curtis was inspired to build a site devoted to weird and wild stories, and fark.com was already at his fingertips.
OK -- so what is Fark? As the Fark-masters themselves explain it, "Fark is what fills space when mass media runs out of news. Fark is supposed to look like news, but it's not news. It's Fark."
Sounds pretty farking good to me.
Don't look now, but your computer may be named after a winged horse.
Asus -- founded, coincidentally enough, by some guys who used to work at the similar-sounding Acer -- got its name from Greek mythology. The title is taken from the final letters of "Pegasus," the magical creature born out of the blood of Medusa.
Asus's creators say they chose Pegasus because they felt their company would "embod[y] the strength, creative spirit, and purity symbolized by this regal and agile mythical creature, soaring to new heights of quality and innovation with each product it introduces to the market." Yikes -- is it just me, or does this explanation sound a bit like a mythical tale itself?
Inspiration aside, the shortening of Asus comes down to an alphabetical advantage: According to a 2008 interview with company founder Jonney Shih, the Asus assembly decided an "A"-name would be the wisest way to go.
Guess they didn't want to suffer the same fate as Xuthus, Zetes, and all those other oft-forgotten figures at the end of the alphabet.
As the tech world's most reliable source of ready-to-serve punchlines, it's only fitting that Yahoo is called Yahoo. And the story of how it came to be known is just as entertaining as the company's endless string of public gaffes.
Upon its inception, Yahoo actually had a different identity: "Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web." Not surprisingly, that name didn't stick.
So Jerry and David -- cofounders and appropriately titled "Chief Yahoos" Jerry Yang and David Filo -- turned to the dictionary to find something shorter. They say they selected the word "yahoo" because they liked its definition: "rude, unsophisticated, and uncouth."
According to Merriam-Webster, "yahoo" also means "stupid" and is synonymous with "dimwit," "doofus," and "chucklehead." Who could possibly miss those prominent meanings, you might be wondering?
Why, only a real yahoo, of course.