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Koo is a cool addition to the dictionary of bizarre social media names

With zillions of sites in the digital universe, standing out isn’t easy. Finding names that are unique and memorable can be a real challenge.

February 14, 2021 / 10:39 AM IST
Founded in March 2020 by Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidawatka, Koo can be used to express views and opinions on various topics much like Twitter.

Founded in March 2020 by Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidawatka, Koo can be used to express views and opinions on various topics much like Twitter.

Where on earth did koo come from? Not the company. We know that the homegrown microblogging platform was launched in March 2020 by serial entrepreneurs Aprameya Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidawatka. But the name Koo?

Where did that come from?

Is it onomatopoeic, from the call of the koel that most Indian of birds celebrated equally in music and poetry. Or is it even deeper, mined from India's rich past in keeping with the spirit of the endeavour. Perhaps it is a Sanskrit derivation, from nikūjitam, meaning vibrated. If so, the founders have chosen wisely.

To take on the likes of Twitter, Atmanirbhar Bharat's play has to be a name that is shorter and equally mysterious, at least to the uninitiated.

Twitter’s naamkaran, by contrast, was far more pedestrian. Its founder Jack Dorsey told New York Public Radio in a 2011 interview that it originated from how a person's phone would buzz/jitter/twitch on receiving a tweet. So, the earliest names were Jitter and Twitch. As Dorsey explained "neither one of them really inspired the best sort of imagery". Thank god for that. Imagine having to deal with jitterati or worse twicheratti!

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The team then took recourse to the dictionary in search of something better and came up with Twitter, which means a short inconsequential burst of information as well as the chirp from birds. That worked out rather well, encapsulating precisely the two main elements of the platform.

Radhakrishna and Bidawatka haven’t yet come up with a similar explanation for their creation. Can’t blame them, with the site growing exponentially over the last few weeks, they’ve had their hands full. Till then it will stay a mystery.

Time was when companies came with names such as International Business Machines, General Electric, United Technologies and Infosys. Prosaic they might have been but there was an air of gravitas to those names.

Now is the age of the bizarre and the outlandish, the more arcane the name, the better it is for branding. Over the years, we have had the likes of Yub and Boo and Gab contending with tongue twisters like Bacn and the truly weird Zombies and Sermo, which incidentally comes from the Latin word for conversation and is a network for physicians. Go figure.

There's a practical reason as well for such unconventional names. With squatters booking every conceivable domain ID, obvious names are ruled out. Predictably, twitter.com was spoken for when it was conceived and the founders had to buy the domain name. Fortunately for them, it was lying dormant and didn't cost them a bomb. This very reason has led to the mauling of spellings with topper becoming Toppr and untapped, Untappd, while Likee is you know what.

Not that being too correct helps. Telegram and Signal clearly the more intuitive terms to describe their purpose—of communicating—don't stand a chance against the much-mauled WhatsApp (from the well-known greeting What’s Up or wassup).

Mastodon, last year’s celebrated rival to Twitter, didn’t quite make it despite a decidedly more intellectual name.

The Chinese have had it easier. Besides the small matter of banning everyone else, they also had a word, Weibo, for microblog in their language. So when Sina Corp wanted to launch the local version of Twitter it kept it to a simple weibo.com.

Maybe we live in far too complex a world to have more such simplicity. With zillions of sites in the digital universe, standing out isn’t easy. Finding names that are unique and memorable can be a real challenge. To that extent, Koo has got it right by being both cryptic and open to all possibilities.

It is in keeping with the changing nature of people's names. Today's young people have such exciting names as Cy and X Æ A-12, and here I am saddled with the dull and boring Sundeep.
Sundeep Khanna is a senior journalist. Views are personal.
Tags: #Koo #Twitter
first published: Feb 14, 2021 10:39 am

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