Naming websites

Once upon a time (okay, 1995), Ward Cunningham invented WikiWikiWebs. They spread all over, even slowly creeping into the commercial world. In 2001 it was thought that using one would help speed up article-writing for Nupedia. Today they are known as wikis, and that particular one has grown so popular that it is not only known by virtually every internet user, its popularity relative to other specific wikis is so much greater that to almost everyone, Wikipedia = Wiki = Wikipedia.

Wikis are a very useful type of website for many applications. Not all, of course, but many. When thinking up a name for a website using a wiki, a convenient name is “Wiki”+”topic”, e.g. Wikitravel. Of course, doing so presumably makes your website the definitive wiki for that topic, despite the reality of others e.g. World66. [hmn, upon writing this I find that these two examples have now decided to work together… cool]. You can see their relative popularity on Alexa; how much of the greater popularity of Wikitravel do you think can be attributed to its name online?

The strategy these days seems to be (1) pick a topic, make a wiki for it and (2) call it Wiki[topic]. The difference, I think, is that now the naming is very deliberate, rather than convenient. I think it is working very well, too.

Open[Topic] is the other name I wanted to mention. While there are many open sourceish projects around, it seems that people are getting better at marketing and are calling just about everything Open Something. I’m personally a strong advocate of OpenSearch, and I do think that some of its success can be attributed to the name.

Identity systems have been proposed and built for years. Marc Canter will tell you how great things would be today if we’d been supporting the Sxip technology years ago. Today it seems like the momentum behind OpenID is really going forward, and that it may indeed be poised to succeed more than any previous system of its kind. How much of its success do you think can be attributed to the name?

This post was provoked by the mention of Wikileaks as I listen to the radio.

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