What does internet 3.0 mean for brand names?

More weird? More wonderful? Here's what's coming
Matt Brady
by Matt Brady

Internet 3.0 will be another big step forward for technology.

The rise of the metaverse. Blockchain technology. Cryptocurrencies galore. There are a boatload of new naming influences for brands to think about. (More on the tech itself in a bit.)

But where best to turn for naming guidance? What’s going to work best for visitors and customers?

Before we look at the naming landscape we’re headed into, let’s review the path already trodden.

In the beginning…

… there was internet 1.0. Static pages. Beautiful websites. Like this one:

Gpgraph

And some of the most notable names? America Online, Geocities, Ask Jeeves. Craigslist. All clinging to a literal, physical presence: a country, a city, a butler. Craig.

There were some odder names out there too – Yahoo springs to mind. But the impact of Google kickstarted a more noticeable trend of leftfield names for internet 2.0.

Take 2.0

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, names got a bit less literal.

Apple replaced Netscape Navigator with Safari. Mozilla launched the Firebird browser, then swiftly renamed it Firefox. Meanwhile, Amazon – a name implying size but not much else – was picking up pace on its path from modest bookstore to global superpower.

Avoiding ‘boring’ names was one part of it. But it was also getting harder to find a unique URL. That’s why today’s internet is jam-packed with suggestive, abstract, and intentionally misspelt names, like Tinder, Twitch, and Tumblr.

Not every name was so obtuse. Myspace and Facebook are pretty ‘obvious’ mid-2.0 portmanteaus. But they were still less literal than, say, 1.0’s CompuServe.

Zucker

Now, we’re entering the third era of the internet. But what is it? And what does it mean for naming?

What’s next?

Definitions of ‘internet 3.0’ are still quite fluid. But technologies like blockchain, voice recognition, and AI are its key hallmarks. The idea of the ‘semantic web’ is big too – where tech understands the meaning behind words, rather than responding to them as data points.

How is this shift affecting names today – and how will it affect names tomorrow?

The newest big names

Interestingly, some of the best-known 3.0 names so far are… names.

“Alexa, play that song I like.”

“Hey Siri, when’s my next dentist appointment?”

But importantly, they're names, not characters. We’re a long way from Ask Jeeves (now just Ask.com – the butler was killed off in 2006).

We also have Meta, a fantastic land grab for not-Facebook-anymore at the dawn of the metaverse, putting a dampener on the prefix ‘meta’ for everyone else.

There’s still space for fairly literal portmanteaus too – one of the most famous being half a digital bit, half a physical coin. But it’s telling that the raft of cryptocurrencies in its wake (Ethereum, Solana, Polygon, and many more) tend to float away into more abstract spaces.

Finding your spot

Shifts in technology. Over half a million new sites every day. Memorable URLs being grabbed by the bucketload.

So, yeah, we’re drowning in new names. How do you get yours to bob to the surface?

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Say what you see

One recent survey suggests startup names are getting less ‘silly’ and becoming more straightforward. If that also means they’re easier to use in a conversation, that could work to your advantage.

Let’s say you want a new shirt. 3.0’s semantic tech might think a company called Wardrobe is a better shout than a boohoo or a Zara. It’ll be interesting to see which name grabs the tech's attention first.

Don’t tie yourself to technology

Names that reference tech can age pretty quickly. Internet Explorer, for example, hung around for an awkwardly long time.

Avoid using name fragments like ‘bit’, ‘block’, ‘chain’, ‘coin’ or ‘node’ – unless you have a really good reason. Or your name could feel old well before its time.

Could crowdsourcing help?

Consensus is part of how the internet, as a community, names things. Think of memes like Grumpy Cat, Doge, and Dogecoin. So, looking at the language people use online isn’t a bad idea. You could trawl subreddits or search through Google Trends for starters. But tread very carefully. Trends come and go.

In more everyday territory, digital bank Monzo crowdsourced its name in 2016. The apple didn’t fall far from the original Mondo tree, but asking customers for help built buy-in at the same time. 

(This method also helped to name Boaty McBoatface the RRS Sir David Attenborough. You’ll need a backup.)

One final thing to remember…

Names build meaning over time.

So don’t get too hung up while searching.
If you’re good at what you do and impress your customers – you’ll grow into it. And so will they.

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