I suppose it just shows how poor my business skills are. If I ran a hugely successful business directory company called “Yellow Pages” and wanted to extend it to the web, I’d have kept the name and made the web pages yellow. Instead, they changed the name to “Yell”. I guess it works to some extent in that it’s a verb so you can “Yell for a plumber”, in the same way as you might Google or Bing one. But why, at a cost supposedly running into six figures, have they just decided to change the name again?
According to the newspaper, the new name is “hibu”. I suppose I should applaud the fact that, in line with our own style guidance here at Microsoft, there is no unnecessary capital letter. But I can’t see how it will work in relation finding a business in their directory – I suspect that few people will instinctively “hibu a plumber”. The only reference I can find to the word is the name of the Norwegian college Hogskolen i Buskerud (Buskerud University College) or “HiBu”. And they do manage to include some capital letters.
It’s a bit like the weird name change that the mobile phone companies T-Mobile and Orange underwent after their amalgamation into one. The choice of the name “Everything Everywhere” has already been described as silly by no less than their chairman Stephane Richard. Meanwhile I confirmed that you can’t buy a tin of baked beans from them, and your phone probably won’t work on the Moon, so the name obviously contravenes some regulation or other.
Of course, the problem is finding a name that isn’t a rude word in any language, and for which you can register an Internet domain. A colleague of mine owns a company whose name contains only a meaningless string of lower-case letters. Perhaps he chose it by entering letters at random into one of those web sites where you buy domain names until it came up with an available .com domain. Maybe we’ll need to get used to company names such as “hwudniq”, “clxystwm”, and “odsengto” (all of which are, at the time of writing, still available).
But coming back to “hibu”, it seems that I just don’t appreciate the intricacies of modern marketing. The company declared that the new name is “short, easy to pronounce (though they had to include a note to say it’s pronounced “high-boo”), edgy, and innovative”. The CEO Mike Pocock even reminded people that names such as “Apple”, “Google”, and “Yahoo!” don’t have any real meaning as words, and were unknown years ago. Well so was “Microsoft”, but I can’t see that Steve Ballmer will suddenly decide to swap it for one of the currently available names I mentioned earlier.
And I reckon Adam and Eve would have something to say about “Apple” not having any real meaning…