In his latest novel, REAMDE, Neil Stephenson describes the process video game entrepreneur Richard Forthrast went through to name his company, Corporation 9592:
When their discussion of the company’s name consumed more than the fifteen minutes Richard felt it deserved, he pulled some Dungeons & Dragons dice out of his pocket and rolled them to generate the random number 9592.
Many startups and established companies have fallen into the time suck of coming up with a “good” name. God only knows how many Post-It trees have died in the pursuit of naming brainstorms. Then, of course, when a short list of names are finally arrived upon, the URL hunt has to begin.
A great name has never built a successful company. Google, Ensoniq, Wii, Lycos, Teac, Geico, eBay… I could spend all day writing a list of companies with names that would get tossed in the trash at a brainstorming session. When I started my first company, a magazine called Permission, I had no process at all for naming it. I spent my time thinking about what the magazine was going to be, and ignoring the title. One day, sitting at my kitchen table in Chicago, the word “permission” popped into my head, and I wrote it down, figuring it was as good as any other. Much later, when the magazine was established and had a personality of its own, the name seemed to make sense, as if it had retrofitted itself to the actual company. Of course, that was 1991, and getting a URL wasn’t an issue. I did end up registering Permission.com a couple years later, in ’93, only to have the URL claim jumped by a squatter a few years later—but that’s another story.
Today, the reality is that registering your company or product name as a .com domain is all but required, and most people will tell you that every .com that can be registered has been registred. Luckily that’s not true. Short URLs that can be found in the dictionary may be a distant memory, but there are still massive numbers of short .com URLs to be had, if you are willing to throw letters together to see what sticks.
NXdom.com has a powerful, but simple, tool that will serve up a seemingly endless list of unregistered domains based on whatever criteria you need. Rolling a d26 (actually a d3 and a d10, discarding numbers over 26) to pick some letters of the alphabet, here’s an example of a few URLs that came up:
A lot of the results that come up are hopeless, like dxexp.com; and some are intriguing, like jadecodes.com, and dynamodels.com. The one thing they always are, though, is available to register at a place like NameCheap or Dotster for about ten bucks a pop.
Spend your time and money on building great things, not worrying about names. If you’d never heard of either company, who do you think would do better, Google.com or Search.com? Let’s put it this way—Search.com gets less than half as much traffic as Dogpile. While we’re at it, MP3.com and MySpace are pretty good names that probably got cheers in their naming sessions, too.