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Startups Are Starting to Choose Normal Names Again

Brands have stopped ‘disemvoweling’ themselves

Stephen Moore
Published in
7 min readNov 19, 2020
Conceptual image of colourful falling letters, casting shadows on a white wall.
Photo: Catherine Falls Commercial/Moment/Getty Images

From creating new words like “Kodak,” forcing words together like “Facebook,” or intentionally misspelling phrases like “Krispy Kreme,” companies have a long history of picking phonetically fabricated — and occasionally nonsensical — brand names. For the past two decades, one particularly popular business trend was for companies to drop vowels from their names; if you glanced at a list of tech firms circa the early 2000s, you might be forgiven for assuming the humble vowel was going extinct. Flickr, Grindr, and Tumblr all launched within a few years of each other, each one seemingly forgetting to bring the letter “e” along with them. Since then, a whole host of companies have followed suit — Scribd, Pixlr, Blendr, and Mndfl, to name but a few.

Even when Twitter launched in 2006, it did so under the name Twttr. A bird enthusiast already owned, and the founders weren’t ready to shell out money for the domain without knowing if their venture would take off (although they eventually paid up six months later, likely making someone a much richer bird watcher). This was a common reason behind the rise of companies dropping their vowels: When Flickr launched in 2004, it immediately faced the same problem. Its founders wanted, but the domain was taken and the owner refused to sell.

In the early 2000s, domains were being scooped up by startups and private domain hoarders left and right, and most companies refused to be held for ransom in their hunt for the right web address.

In 2010, Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake told the San Jose Mercury News, “I suggested to the team, ‘Let’s remove this “E” thing.’ They all said, ‘That’s too weird,’ but I finally ground everyone down. Then of course, it became THE thing and everyone started removing vowels right and left.” After Flickr’s successful launch without its “e,” other brands began dropping vowels from their own names. For many companies, it made business sense: In the early 2000s, domains were being scooped up by startups and private domain hoarders left…