Slideshow

How six memorable tech companies got their names

Just imagine if instead of "Googling" something, you "BackRubbed" it.

  • Go Daddy You have to wonder whether Go Daddy would have succeeded had the company kept its original name: Jomax Technologies. Within a couple of years, founder Bob 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.

  • Apple For a company that routinely touts its products as being magical, the origins of Apple's name are actually quite ordinary. According to Apple co-founder 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?

  • Google 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.) 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 co-founder 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.

  • Fark Some social sharing sites have pleasant-sounding names. You have Twitter, Facebook, and even the deserted land of MySpace. And then there's Fark. Pardon my French, but what the fark is a Fark? According to the site's founder, Fark is absolutely nothing. However it was first uttered, Fark stuck -- and when Drew 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.

  • Asus Don't look now, but your computer may be named after a winged horse. 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.

  • Yahoo 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 -- co-founders 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. Author JR Raphael is the chief chucklehead at eSarcasm, America's lowest calorie geek-humor Web site. You can find him on both Facebook and Twitter.

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