Website naming—The weird wide Web

Over the past few weeks, I've been checking out some of the new, up-and-coming websites out there. Many of these sites offer some pretty cool services: Hipmunk has a slick new flight search interface, Gowalla helps you keep up with (and keep track of) your friends and Spotify lets you easily find and listen to the music you like.

When it comes to the naming practices of many new Web startups, the trend seems clear—the stranger the name, the better.

From Youtego to Tweba, Quora to Wowio, Web names run the gamut from the cute and quirky to the totally bizarre. And these unusual names aren't limited to small, entrepreneurial startups; big venture capital players are investing millions of dollars in companies with names like Zynga, Wooga, Zulily and Blippy.

When the dot-com bubble burst in the early 2000s, new Web startups tended to shy away from more evocative names and launched sites such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and YouTube. Today, however, anything goes. Granted, domain names are getting harder to acquire, but do names like ooVoo, Flukle, Uruky and Mimvi make any sense to use?

As a professional naming consultant, I'm often asked for examples of really "good" names. Here’s my short answer—if it’s “right” for the offering, then it works. By “right,” I mean the name should "feel right” (support the brand story), “look right” (be relatively easy to read/use) and “sound right” (appeal to the target customers). So that means names like Facebook, Twitter and Hi5 can all work well for a social networking website.

But a catchy name alone is not going to drive success. Look at Cuil (pronounced “cool”), the eagerly-anticipated, well-funded ($30+ million) search engine that was supposed to revolutionize the search space and give Google a run for its money. When it failed to deliver the relevant results promised, the website didn’t look so "cool" anymore.

So what do you think? What are some great (or not so great) new website names?

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