Tech product names suck. Bing blows

Bing - why not Bob?

When a company decides to call its search engine Bing, as Microsoft has decided to do, you've got to wonder what names they rejected. Spang? Facthammer? Searchy Searchy Search McSearch?

You've also got to wonder what they were thinking of when they chose Bing, because the four things that immediately spring to mind are Yahoo, the late Bing Crosby, Chandler from Friends and the bar in the Sopranos.

Does Microsoft really want us to think of an ailing search provider, a long-dead crooner, an actor with addiction problems and a mafia strip club whenever we think of its search engine?

Then again, maybe they didn't think that far ahead. This, after all, is the same firm that decided to call its security suite Microsoft Wanker. Sure, it says OneCare when it's written down, but go on. Read it aloud.

Still, credit where credit's due: at least Microsoft hasn't followed the usual tech route and chosen a name so calculated and anodyne that it's completely meaningless - Dell Adamo, Palm Pre - or so functional it makes you think the marketing department has committed suicide, such as the Dell Mini or HPF2280.

And while Bing is truly terrible, at least it's not as bad as the self-consciously zany Casio G'zOne (it's a phone) or the so-Web-2.0-it's-already-dead

Missed opportunities

Bad names aren't just bad names: they're missed opportunities. A bad name on a good product immediately prevents it from becoming a big deal. We guarantee you that "I'll just Wolfram Alpha it" is never going to replace "I'll just Google it" in the popular lexicon

And a bad name on a product that isn't mind-bogglingly good - such as, say, a search engine that isn't quite as good as Google - is the branding equivalent of entering a donkey in the Grand National, or shooting your own legs off before running the London Marathon.

There are exceptions so, for example, Wii is a rotten name no matter how many consoles Nintendo sells and the Ting Tings are good despite, not because of, their terrible monicker, but they're few and far between. More often than not, bad names are bad for business.

A good name, on the other hand, can do wonders. Two otherwise identical products can be completely different by dint of a decent name so, for example, the Nissan Vanette is a slow, ugly pile of crap that's often converted into a camper van, whereas Mazda's equivalent is possibly the greatest car ever built. Its name? The Mazda Bongo Friendee.

Had Microsoft learnt from that lunacy you can be sure of two things: it would have come up with something a damn sight better than Bing, and the entire internet would be applauding.

It wouldn't be so bad if Microsoft hadn't already come up with the perfect name back in the 1980s. It was short, it was cute, and it still makes us laugh. Forget about Bing, Ballmer! Bring back Bob!


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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now and her next book, about pop music, is out in 2025. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind.