site map

 

Thingnamer Banner

March 19, 2007 | Tate Linden
A good friend sent me a link today to an (expired) vote on what to name Adobe's new "desktop runtime." For the record I have no idea what a desktop runtime is and I really don't much care to invest the time to find out. The key here is that it was given a pretty cool code name by the folks at Adobe prior to launching the full product. Here's what Adobe Labs has to say about the product and code name:
Apollo is a cross-OS runtime that allows developers to leverage their existing web development skills (Flash, Flex, HTML, Ajax) to build and deploy desktop RIA’s.
All you developers out there probably now understand what the product does. I'm still clueless. But that's beside the point. The point is that the code name "Apollo" is still pretty darn cool.

Now the downside.

Adobe is now in the position where it must alienate the developers that have been working on or hyping the product code named Apollo. Why? Because Adobe can't use the name, and doesn't want to come right out and say that they were foolish and didn't check the US Patent and Trade Office before they started using it. If they'd checked they'd have seen over 1300 live and dead marks pertaining to the word.)

Mike Chambers - Sr. Product Manager for Apollo over at Adobe - says as much on his own blog when you read through the comments (starting at about XIII or so.) Sez Mike:

Hehe... Yeah, I like Apollo too. Just remember that there are a lot of considerations when choosing a name, not all of them in our control. (for example, is it already in use, is it something that we could trademark, etc...)

I've said it before. I will continue to say it in perpetuity. Code names that have any meaning at all are bad.



  1. If they have any meaning that pertains to the product or its goals then the intended audience will latch onto that meaning and identity.
  2. Once the audience has accepted the code name they'll raise a huge cry when you try to change it. (Apollo is a cool name. It's just a name that they can't have.)
  3. Typically companies don't want to look like idiots so they refrain from giving the real reason for the change from code name to production name (A.K.A. "we were too lazy to do a five minute search at www.uspto.gov to figure out that we were going to have some big problems pushing this name through legal.") Kudos to Mike for letting word get out in a friendly and informative way.
  4. ...of course, if the code name misses the mark (as did Google's initial name of "Backrub" - which was meaningful, but rather awkward) then all you've done is weird people out before you try to convince them that you do in fact have a cool product on your hands.
So - if your meaningful name hits you've got a battle to reorient your clients to the new identity and if it misses you've got to start all over again with a new image. I'm not seeing a benefit either way.

If you instead have a policy of naming every product after something innocuous (and gods are not innocuous, by the way) or - even better - don't give your product a code name and instead push to get the real name reserved as quickly as possible then you almost all of the potential headaches.

You've still got to find the right name, however.

If only there were Thingnamers in the world to make things even easier. What a wonderful world that would be...

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
2 Comments
michael March 20, 2007 7:05 PM

Tate,
We had one of those rename the code name jobs recently and in addition to all your issues was the fact that the team (many of who were participants in the renaming exercise) had been working on the technology for over a year. Due to that, they had grown accustomed to the code name and had to some degree developed an almost paternal/maternal feeling about the name. Sort of like telling someone they had to rename their one year old child they loved and protected during its infancy. As a result, they were hostile and closed to considering ANYTHING different. It took much longer than usual with much more hand holding to get those folks to come around. Eventually they did, but it was a much too arduous process.
So, I say call everything Project X1146 or something and avoid all the issues.
Sadly, I am about to go down the same road again with another code name rename. Pray for me......

Tate Linden March 22, 2007 1:37 PM

My thoughts are with you and your naming team, Michael.
Let us know how it turns out.