Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Google Worth

The Wall Street Journal covers (might be subscription only) an interesting phenomenon of late. People Googling names before they decide what to name their new baby. If your last name is Smith, probably not a good idea to name your kid John Smith, though Jonas Smith is not too bad. Me, I don't actually show up until page 6. As we move towards completely archiving our lives, from online baby registries and announcements to angsty teenage MySpace profiles to professionally Linked In, we are becoming more and more instantly searchable. What effect might this have on this upcoming generation?

Well, if you take a look at what it's done with brands and marketing online, you might get a taste for what's to come at home. As common word .com urls started to become unavailable, marketers with new companies had to start getting fancy. Hence new product offerings with made-up or loosely spelled names: Flickr, Digg, Zazzle, Meebo, and the like. The wave of Web 2.0 offerings weren't just about social media or new site features, it was also about defining yourself online which meant making yourself searchable online.

Has it worked? That's hard to say. The value of a unique web name is front loaded. That is, you only really need it when no one knows about you. Once you gain some traction online, search engines should gradually increase your rank. When you're a true success, the value of the name is gone since you're playing with the big boys on page 1 now. I'm sure in the very beginning, when someone is trying to find you for the first time, the unique name is critical. But having a weird name isn't that great either, what if no one remembers it in the first place? What was that photo sharing site? It had a weird name like Flash'r or something.

Anyways, you can see the parallel that baby names might take. Will this next generation of kids find themselves at grade school roll call responding to names like, "J'hnny Smith", "Teepo Bryan" or "MySarah Morgan". You know, I used to wonder why all the names in those sci-fi novels were weird. Now I know.

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