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10 Best and Worst Internet Company Names of the Decade

by Laurel Sutton  |  
December 29, 2009

Like the internet phenoms they trumpeted, Internet company names of the last decade have been, by turns, wildly inventive, deeply troubled, breathtakingly silly, serviceable (if dull)—and, occasionally, brilliant.

Having christened our share of Internet phenoms, we at Catchword decided to looked back to identify the 10 biggest dot-com naming trends—and their best and worst examples.

(Although, frankly, it was hard to choose just one "worst" in some cases. There were so many Web 2.0 disasters! It was as though the rules of language had ceased to apply.)

Here are the trends and names that rose to the top (and sank to the bottom).

1. The Hookup

Sometimes two words are better than one—especially to convey a new way of doing things. Serviceable hookups can range from descriptive (Facebook, StubHub) to suggestive (LinkedIn) to evocative (Snapfish).

But if two words don't have a discernible relationship with each other—or the brand—it's a Random Hookup. And we all know how short-lived those are—in this or any realm.

Win: YouTube

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Laurel Sutton is a linguistics expert and principal at Catchword, a full-service naming company founded in 1998. For more information, contact Laurel at 510-628-0080 x105.

LinkedIn: Laurel Sutton

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  • by Jill Tue Dec 29, 2009 via web

    Great names!

    A category you overlooked is the Oops...unintentionally spelled something else.

    "who represents" is a site that tells you who represents various famous people. Their

  • by Nicole Knox Tue Dec 29, 2009 via web

    Loved this article! I do have to say that did an effective enough job with their brand and great product offering to overcome the name issue, and the definitely have the benefit of name recall. :)

    And Jill - "Who Represents" - that is just tremendously awful!

  • by Heather Tue Dec 29, 2009 via web

    All in all, good names; however, I'm not sure I would list Napster as a "Fail" as it was one if the first of MANY "ster" sites/ catch phrases, etc.

  • by Kathrine Tue Dec 29, 2009 via web

    It would appear that your list is biased by the actual company's success rather than the name itself. Using your logic, wouldn't flickr be kind of creepy too?? I'd rather see some marketing theory-based analysis -- but your list was fun.

  • by Rachel Tue Dec 29, 2009 via web

    Well said, Kathrine.
    Without a theoretical basis or hard data, the list seems rather subjective. But it does point to the nature of individual preferences. After all, what's in a name? Twitter? Google?

  • by baba Tue Dec 29, 2009 via web

    yeh ba ba blacksheep, take that

  • by Jensen Tue Dec 29, 2009 via web

    Napster wasn't in the last 10 years, it was a bit earlier, and isn't it kind of weird to award Friendster for building on the Napster name if Napster is so "bad"? Also, yes, "wiki" means "quick", but Wikipedia came AFTER wikis, so it is not a combo of "quick" and "encyclopedia"'s an encyclopedia of wikis, which is totally accurate.
    And didn't Catchword coin Boku AND Kijiji?

  • by socialamigo Tue Dec 29, 2009 via web

    "...the list seems rather subjective..." ???
    That's a curious critique of a list - don't you think?

  • by meher taj Tue Dec 29, 2009 via web

    A very interesting analysis. While i agree with kathrine that the list is gone by the company' success, i would also want to point out the company's success also is an out come of right branding and Brand name is very inportant aspect of branding hence name is just not a name..there is too much in a name.

  • by meher taj Tue Dec 29, 2009 via web

    A very interesting analysis. While i agree with kathrine that the list is gone by the company' success, i would also want to point out the company's success also is an out come of right branding and Brand name is very inportant aspect of branding hence name is just not a name..there is too much in a name.

  • by Elizabeth Brooks Wed Dec 30, 2009 via web

    "Cuil" is an earnest attempt at getting to a name (Gaelic for wisdom or knowledge) but it's unintentionally hilarious in so many ways. French speakers will especially get a laugh out of it. In general names of Celtic origin are going to be too exotic in pronunciation for a mass audience.

    I'm biased as i was employee #7 or something, but Napster did just fine in terms of brand perception- research showed that consumers retained a VERY positive feeling towards the brand throughout its original incarnation- regular users were even more positive- all this in the face of many flying lawsuits. Also, the name has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with kidnapping. If it brings naughtiness to mind, well, that was part of our positioning. Our community loved the name, we were one of the top three Web brands, and in fact Napster did not lose brand equity & positivity until the brand was sold and the paid service built.
    I think it's a little specious to slam our name and then award Friendster, which was a "tribute name" BASED on Napster.
    Also, the above poster is correct that Napster was not named in the 00s but in early 1999 and thus doesn't belong in the list at all.

  • by @amaaanda Wed Dec 30, 2009 via web

    I'm almost 100% with you, but I just love MOO too much :) They have a lot of fun with their name, so they get a pass from me.

  • by tdejoria Wed Dec 30, 2009 via web

    I dont know about putting the 10 best and worst of the decade. I have to agree with Katherine and Rachel. This sounds like one's own opinion and highly subjective. Personally, I've never liked the name Kazaa and dont mind Napster at all. Heck, in respect of the goal of branding, I think Napster has done quite well. And anything with an "i" in front of it should admit they are too uncreative to do anything but follow Apple's lead.

    Just my opinion

  • by aldo Thu Dec 31, 2009 via web

    Oh, yes!
    Veri interesting list of good and worst names, but you miss one of my best:
    What do you think about ?
    Be serious!

  • by dave conover Thu Dec 31, 2009 via web a funny blog about names. in this instance compounded (or should it be confounded?) names.

  • by BillSchley Sun Jan 10, 2010 via web

    Great list Laurel. Notice what makes a lot of these internet names great is what always made names great in any industry: they're descriptive, launch your idea, easy to say and repeat to others. The meaningless name successes over the years, like Amazon and even Google (nobody knew what a google was) won for another great branding reason: There services were just so great, innovative, remarkable or delightful, useless names couldn't even stand in their way. I like the name of your company too, Laurel--catchwordbranding. Expect you named it.

  • by Ryan O'Donnell Wed Jan 20, 2010 via web

    A clever article, albeit subjective. Nice job.

    I like the perspective Elizabeth Brooks was able to provide based on her experience at Napster. It aligned exactly with my own feelings about the Napster brand. Perhaps the Wordster category should be renamed the Tribute category? Seems to me this new category could include the eThing, the iThing, the meThing, the myThing as well.

  • by Shazia Tue Feb 9, 2010 via web

    Wow.... amazing list... Nice job Laurel..

  • by Pete Rishel Thu Feb 18, 2010 via web

    Laurel, I read an article a long time ago in which Shawn Fanning said that he named "Napster" after his cat, who napped all the time. Thus the logo--a cat with headphones on. I really doubt that he intended to "kidnap" music. Where did you get that?

  • by Dan Macey Wed Mar 3, 2010 via web

    OK. Very interesting discussion. I am starting a new internet marketing and database marketing company, the latter of which I havee operated for several years. We are intensively consultantive, to understand client's business and derive marketing strategy, using the tools of internet marketing. The name of our company is Macey Marketing Group, Inc
    My consultant for logo design came up with the tag: Tradigital Communications for our logo. Am I crazy or does this have no sense of relationship to our business, or to any business?

  • by eni D Tue Mar 16, 2010 via web

    This is how I remember the origin of Napster: "For his nickname on the channel, Fanning used what he had been called on the basketball court, Napster, because of his short, nappy hair." Also negative because that term can be a racial slur.

  • by Steve Byrne Tue Mar 23, 2010 via web

    Boku maybe, but what about Google as a misspelled Googol?
    (A googol is the large number 10100 coined by Edward Kasner in 1938)

  • by Steve Byrne Tue Mar 23, 2010 via web

    10 to power of 100

  • by Gunter Soydanbay Sat Mar 27, 2010 via web


    Very insightful article. I have started a series of posts on naming. When completed, it will be very thorough. You can check the link below.


    Gunter Soydanbay

  • by Dr_ichu Wed Jan 30, 2013 via web

    Dear friends.. unlike u all i am no marketng pro - i am into dentistry ...and i love my head breaking for something innovative ..its mostly drill /fill!!! joking.... but thank god its not like urs... where there is no right or wrong... some just click and some doesn't!! and noone can predict ..... so i though i would ask the experts....

    ok i have a query...pls help.. i am looking to start a dental (maybe later go into other heathcare )post graduate education based in dubai , and i want a good name for an academy and an attached dental practice. I am thinking of 'quantum academy ' and q clinic .... pls comment.... or any suggestions are most welcome...... thanks....

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