How Safari got its name

Ever wonder how apps got their names? Sure some are obvious (iWork, Office, Word, Mail), others less so (Excel, PowerPoint). What about Safari? On the 10th anniversary of the project kicking off, former Apple engineer Don Melton spills the beans.

Below is the exchange with Kurt Knight who was part of Apple marketing on how Don got the news:

I met Kurt in the middle of the Infinite Loop quad. He seemed excited and said he was looking for me.

“What’s up?”

“They’ve picked a name!”

I didn’t need anymore context than that. And immediately I tensed up like someone expecting to be hit in the face. All those shitty names I’d heard over the last few months came flooding back like sewer water.

“What… is it?” I asked with my teeth nearly clenched.

“Safari,” Kurt whispered.

I didn’t say anything. But Kurt must have noticed that I was more relaxed. “Dazed” as he described it to me later. Probably a little stupider looking than usual, too.

“What do you think?” he asked.

I honestly didn’t know what to think. My mind was a blank because I just didn’t expect it. The name seemed to come out of nowhere. It sounded more foreign at that moment than its actual origin.

“It doesn’t suck,” I finally offered.

And it didn’t. Slowly, slowly it was growing on me. Kurt and I stood there for a bit talking about “Safari.” And then we realized that was a very stupid thing to do right out in the open.

By the time I reached my office, I liked the name. Really liked it. I was committed. I could imagine seeing “Safari” in the Mac OS X dock. I had to tell the team right away and, if necessary, convince them that they liked it too. Fortunately, and to their credit, they didn’t need much convincing.

So, to whoever suggested the name “Safari,” thank you.

The code name for the project had been “Alexander” (that story is coming, but I’m guessing it’s either a someone’s child or a reference to Alexander The Great) because you have to call it something. Stories behind product names tend to be pretty interesting. The first software company (and first startup) I worked for was called “Qumana” (as was the app). Why? Because it wasn’t a word in any language and sounded interesting. Yep, that’s the truth.

I can relate to Don’s reaction of “It doesn’t suck.” because sometimes when you’re in a crunch to finalize a name the least sucktacular name often wins.

Via: Don Melton

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