Originally published Jan 9, 2007

When YouTube was acquired by Google, there were jokes about how it might be renamed (GooTubeGoogTube?). There were some serious suggestions, too. One branding expert urged Google to change the name to GoogleTube.

In the Name Inspector’s not-so-humble opinion, Google was smart to let things stand. YouTube is a great name. A compound made of two common monosyllabic words, it feels easy and familiar. While it hints at the tired convention My ___ (e.g. My Yahoo, My eBay, MySpace, My.Netscape, My AOL, etc.), the second person pronoun makes it fresh and more honest (all those “my” names have big corporations speaking in “my” voice, which is kind of creepy). It’s nice that it can be either singular or plural, too.

Like many good names, YouTube evokes sound-alike phrases that activate appropriate associations in our minds. First, of course, it’s built on the pattern of boob tube, and sets up an implicit contrast with this comically derisive term (”This isn’t the boob tube, this is the YOU tube!”). The use of tube to refer to video is a little retro and ironic, which makes it kind of fun. YouTube also suggests the phrase you too, as in, for example, “You too can be a star!”. These expressions and their meanings resonate in the background, making this an excellent name for a video service featuring user-generated content.

YouTube is also strong phonetically. It has no consonant clusters, so it’s very easy and pleasant to say (unlike GoogleTube, which has that ugly knot of consonants in the middle). There’s poetry in the repeated vowel sound [u], but it avoids the cutesiness of perfect rhyming compounds like SmugMug and TagJag.

The Name Inspector’s conclusion: Chad and Steve found a good name in YouTube, and Google was smart to keep it.

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