catchy names beat descriptive names

Okay, so maybe I’m generalizing too much, or maybe this shows that catchy names (like amazon.com) beat descriptive names (like buy.com). The case in point is the demise of HD-DVD, and the success of Blu-ray. “HD-DVD” tells you exactly what it is: a high-definition DVD. “Blu-ray” tells you nothing, except perhaps hinting ever so slightly at its optical nature.

In case you hadn’t heard the news, studios, manufacturers, big-box stores, and even NetFlix are dropping HD-DVD in favor of Blu-ray. It seems unlikely that the trend will reverse itself, so everyone (except Microsoft) is calling it a day for HD-DVD.

Some names are both catchy and descriptive, like Ruby on Rails. “Ruby on Rails” is ruby placed onto metaphorical rails, in other words, tracks which speed development. Imagine a train off its tracks, and how slow it is, and now compare it to a train on the tracks. This is the sort of image evoked by the name “Ruby on Rails”.

But things with purely descriptive names, especially when descriptive in an obscure way, might consider filing a name change. Take Merb, short for Mongrel + erb. It’s awesome little framework, but I fear it’s not going to get the attention it deserve with that name.

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