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Note to Twitter: Discovery Engine is a Crappy Name

Up until now, from a naming perspective Twitter was hitting it out the park. Start with the company name: Twitter - it's brilliant. Webster's defines twitter as:
1: to utter successive chirping noises; 2 a: to talk in a chattering fashion b: giggle

That kind of perfectly sums up twitter- 140 character chirps uttered in a chattering fashion. The name is non-obvious, wonderfully descriptive, familiar, yet unencumbered. And let's face it, its fun to say (twitter, tweets, tweeting, etc.). Big home run.

Next, they come up with the service description of "real-time search". As I've said before, I actually don't think search is what they do, but that doesn't matter. They now own the term real-time search. And it's a great term.

From a perception standpoint, owning anything search is great. Search is just that good of a business. But most of the search modifiers proved to be ownership-less - or Google got them by default. Local search, shopping search, people search, image search, etc. all have been tried by lots of people but have amounted to nothing. YouTube got video search - and $1.6 billion later, Google got YouTube. Owning a search term is a good thing.

Real time search as a category seems to have legs. Is it valuable from a monetary perspective? TBD. From a perception perspective: oh yeah, it's valuable. And Twitter owns it. And on the web you have to own your category or you die.

Which brings me to my point: why the f$#@ did they start talking about Twitter being a "discovery engine." This term is perhaps the tritest term in the short history of the web. So many people have tried to apply some dime-store marketing to their particular site or service and called their engine a "discovery engine" or a "find engine" or "explore engine". It's a cheap, transparent way to draft off of the great business of search, but it always fails. There is no meaning behind these terms.

But real-time search? Ah. Now, that means something. Let me search what's happening right now. Cool. In theory anyway. So, how about instead of Twitter being a discovery engine, they talk about it being a....wait for it.....real time search engine. That would actually mean something - and capitalize on the term they already own. Sounds like a winner to me - and beats the shit out of discovery engine.

So note to Twitter: you're naming and branding is awesome. Keep it up. And never, ever utter the phrase discovery engine again. We'll pretend it didn't happen.


Disclaimer: I work for a company named Blekko - which I helped name. You should keep that in mind as you read any naming advice I give. :)


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