silverorange at 20: How silverorange was almost called Net Prophet
Part of our 20 years of silverorange
On August 11, 2019, silverorange will turn 20 years old. We were formed in 1999 when two small businesses joined together—MetaMedia and Whitelands Studios.
We obviously needed a name for our new venture and started throwing around ideas. You know how there are no bad ideas? We had some bad ideas. I’m not sure who actually thought of it, but I remember liking the idea of naming the company Net Prophet. Get it? There are at least two puns in there. Thankfully, greater wisdom prevailed.
Our goals for the name included:
- The name shouldn’t be tied to any particular technology—we were building our websites in ColdFusion at the time, something we knew even then wouldn’t last.
- Something abstract, that we could imbue with meaning rather than carrying too much meaning itself. While IBM may stand for International Business Machines, it has long since become a new word of its own.
- The .com domain name must be available. There was no .io in 1999. It was dot-com or nothing.
- Something we could say to people without having to explain or spell out (the opposite of slashdot.org.
Someone suggested “silver systems”, which we liked, but wasn’t quite unique enough to ensure a domain name. Someone else suggested something orange related. We threw around the number 47—the atomic number of the element silver—which was a bit too close to 37 Signals, a company we admired.
Eventually, someone suggested we merge the silver and orange ideas. “silverorange” sounded pretty good. It didn’t really have any baggage or meaning that we didn’t like and the silverorange.com domain name was available.
I don’t remember who in particular ultimately suggested the name silverorange. As soon as we settled on it, Dan James shouted “I call dan at silverorange dot com!” and Dan(iel) Burka followed up with “gah!”
silverorange as a name has aged well—if we do say so ourselves
Our original goals of having a more abstract name have served us well. While it may be a touch goofy, we managed to pick a name for a company when many of us were twenty years old that we’re still happy with twenty years later.
We took a similar approach to how we presented ourselves beyond just our name. Our tagline “building powerful web-based systems” has also aged well. That’s still what we do today. Our website today has only evolved slightly to: “silverorange designs and develops simple and powerful web and mobile applications.”
If I were to time-travel and give our twenty-years-ago selves any advice on naming and branding, it would be that cleverness is seldom timeless, and that the real meaning comes from what you do with the company, not from what it’s called.