Saturday, 29 November 2008

How Flickr became "Flickr", and not "Flicker"

Flickr popularised the idea of naming web-based applications (web-app) by dropping the last vowel in the name. The idea has inspired other web-apps like Tumblr and Pixlr, to name just two. There's an interesting story behind how Flickr became "Flickr", a case of how good ideas are not always obvious.
Flickr’s branding was a lucky combination of good decisions and happy accidents. I really wanted to use a real word as the brand name – something evocative with nice connotations, but which would not limit what we could do with it.

After a few solid days of brainstorming, one of our advisors suggested “flicker” which we all liked... flickering candles, screens; it was very playful and open-ended.

But we weren’t able to buy the domain name and were temporarily stumped for what to do. Caterina Fake, Flickr’s co-founder, suggested dropping the ‘e’ which I strongly resisted. I eventually gave in and was very glad I did. It turned out to be a stroke of genius, spawning a slew of imitators. The missing vowel came to symbolise innovation, ‘newness’ and the whole Web 2.0 movement. When people told each other about it, they would always pause to spell out the name “f-l-i-c-k-r” reinforcing the name and increasing the chance of recall.

Of course, the whole product embodied the brand – playful, open, powerful and participatory. From the beginning it had a very enthusiastic community and great press. In fact, Flickr still has never advertised and reaches over 50 million unique users per month.
Read the rest of the interview with Stewart Butterfield, Flickr's co-founder.


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