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How software projects got their name

amit_merchant profile image Amit Merchant Updated on ・5 min read

Sometimes, it's kind of interesting to know the origins of the products/projects we love. Here's a collection of such products/projects and the stories of how they got their name.

JavaScript (Programming language)

From an interview made to its creator Brendan Eich:

InfoWorld: As I understand it, JavaScript started out as Mocha, then became LiveScript and then became JavaScript when Netscape and Sun got together. But it actually has nothing to do with Java or not much to do with it, correct?

Eich: That’s right. It was all within six months from May till December (1995) that it was Mocha and then LiveScript. And then in early December, Netscape and Sun did a license agreement and it became JavaScript. And the idea was to make it a complementary scripting language to go with Java, with the compiled language.

MySQL (Database management system)

Michael "Monty" Widenius is one of the founder of MySQL and one of his daughter's name is My(after whom MySQL was named).

Git (Version control system)

Linus Torvalds (Developer of Git) has quipped about the name git, which is British English slang for a stupid or unpleasant person. Torvalds said: "I'm an egotistical bastard, and I name all my projects after myself. First 'Linux', now 'git'.The man page describes git as "the stupid content tracker".

Ubuntu (Operating system)

The OS was named after the Southern African philosophy of ubuntu (literally, 'human-ness'), which Canonical Ltd. suggests can be loosely translated as "humanity to others" or "I am what I am because of who we all are".

Java (Programming language)

The language was initially called Oak after an oak tree that stood outside James Gosling(Developer of Java)'s office. Later the project went by the name Green and was finally renamed Java, from Java coffee.

Python (Programming language)

In Van Rossum(Developer of Python)'s own words:

"In December 1989, I was looking for a "hobby" programming project that would keep me occupied during the week around Christmas. My office ... would be closed, but I had a home computer, and not much else on my hands. I decided to write an interpreter for the new scripting language I had been thinking about lately: a descendant of ABC that would appeal to Unix/C hackers. I chose Python as a working title for the project, being in a slightly irreverent mood (and a big fan of Monty Python's Flying Circus)."

Ruby (Programming language)

The name "Ruby" originated during an online chat session between Yukihiro Matsumoto (Developer of Ruby) and Keiju Ishitsuka on February 24, 1993, before any code had been written for the language. Initially two names were proposed: "Coral" and "Ruby". Matsumoto chose the latter in a later e-mail to Ishitsuka. Matsumoto later noted a factor in choosing the name "Ruby" – it was the birthstone of one of his colleagues.

Translated chat when name was decided and email they've shared. The original conversation was in Japanese.

Scala (Programming language)

The name Scala is a portmanteau of scalable and language, signifying that it is designed to grow with the demands of its users.

Django (Python frmaework)

The framework was named after guitarist Django Reinhardt.

Chrome (Browser)

An answer from Glen Murphy, Design Lead, Google Chrome on asking "How Chrome gets its name?". In his words,

"We had a ‘pick a codename’ vote early in the development cycle – the names that came of that competition were so terrible that we were all pretty happy when one of the leads overrode it and declared that the codename would be ‘Chrome’, presumably because he likes fast cars."

Mozilla (Company)

The history of the name Mozilla goes all the way back to the internal codename for the original 1994 Netscape Navigator browser, with the name meaning "Mosaic killer" and aiming to some similarity with the building-crushing Godzilla, as the company's goal was to displace NCSA Mosaic as the world's number one web browser. The name Mozilla was revived as the 1998 open sourcing spinoff organization from Netscape.

Firefox (Browser)

The name "Firefox" (a reference to the red panda) was chosen by Mozilla for its similarity to "Firebird" (which was the former name of Firefox), but also for its uniqueness in the computing industry.

Laravel (PHP Framework)

"When trying to think of names, I thought about the geography of Tolkien's Middle Earth and C.S. Lewis' Narnia. In Narnia, Cair Paravel is the name of the castle where the kings and queens of Narnia live. Laravel rhymes with Paravel. I thought the name had a classy and sophisticated ring to it."Taylor Otwell (Creator of Laravel)

Hadoop (Open source big data software)

The name Hadoop is not an acronym; it’s a made-up name. The project’s creator, Doug Cutting, explains how the name came about:

The name my kid gave a stuffed yellow elephant. Short, relatively easy to spell and pronounce, meaningless, and not used elsewhere: those are my naming criteria. Kids are good at generating such. Googol is a kid’s term.

Skype (Instant messaging app)

The name for the software is derived from "Sky peer-to-peer", which was then abbreviated to "Skyper". However, some of the domain names associated with "Skyper" were already taken. Dropping the final "r" left the current title "Skype", for which domain names were available.

Adobe (Company)

The name Adobe was derived from Adobe Creek, a river or creek that ran behind the house of John Warnock, one of the founders. But where is Adobe Creek? It's located in Los Altos, California.

Apache (Software foundation)

According to the FAQ in the Apache project website, the name Apache was chosen out of respect to the Native American tribe Apache and their superior skills in warfare and strategy. The name was widely believed to be a pun on 'A Patchy Server' (since it was a set of software patches).

Edit (4th Nov, 2017)

Microsoft (Company)

Coined by Bill Gates to represent the company that was devoted to microcomputer software.

Zend Technologies (Organisation)

The word "Zend" has been derived from the names of Zeev Suraski and Andi Gutmans, the two founders of the organisation.

Xerox (Company)

It has been derived from xerography, a word derived from the Greek xeros (dry) and graphos (writing).

Leave such stories in the comment section if you know about one.

Discussion

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

This is absolutely awesome. The Ruby programming language is inspired by perl and that's why it was narrowed down to other stones. And Crystal takes on the same legacy, though it was unclear from their AMA how much of a role that played.

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Amit Merchant Author

I'd also like to know how dev.to got its name. Can you shed some light on it?

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blalasaadri

The C programming language was meant to replace the B programming language, so they just choose the next letter in the alphabet. (There was also a later language called D, though that hasn't caught on nearly as much as C.)

less, a unix tool for reading text files, replaced a similar (though less powerful tool) called more. It's a play on the term "less is more".

The language Ada is named after Ada Lovelace, the first person to publish a computer algorithm and possibly the first to realize, that computers could be used for much more than just calculations.

WINE is a recursive acronym, standing for "WINE Is Not an Emulator". It's also a backronym, since of course the word "wine" existed before the tool did.

The programming languages Haskell and Curry are both named after the American mathematician and logician Haskell Curry. The programming technique currying is also named after him.

V8, the JavaScript engine used in both Google Chrome and Node.JS, is named after the V8 engine. That was supposed to symbolize, how fast it was.

To quote from the MongoDB glossary: "“MongoDB” derives from the word “humongous” because of the database’s ability to scale up with ease and hold very large amounts of data."

The LucasArts adventure game engine SCUMM (short for Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) is a play on the word scum. That wasn't enough though, it also played host to the INteractive Streaming ANimation Engine (INSANE) and some other tools such as FLEM, CYST, BYLE and MMUCUS. Later they switched to GrimE for 3D stuff, the name being inspired by both the first game they used it for (Grim Fandango) and the term grime. ScummVM, a later project for playing those old adventure games on newer systems, was named after the SCUMM engine. That and GrimE then inspired ResidualVM, with ResidualVM being for those games that ScummVM doesn't cover and grime being a type of residue.

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403 Forbidden

And Debian, from Wikipedia:
"Debian was first announced on August 16, 1993, by Ian Murdock, who initially called the system 'the Debian Linux Release'. The word 'Debian' was formed as a portmanteau of the first name of his then-girlfriend Debra Lynn and his own first name."
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debian

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Amit Merchant Author

Wow! That's really interesting!

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Oliver Schramm

Wonderful article!

I can't proof this, but I believe Composer was named Composer because.. well.. you need a composer to compose a Symfony. ;)

It does make sense, however, since the motivation behind early Composer was to make it easier for phpBB and Symfony to install bundles/plugins/extensions.

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Tiago Marques

Why the name "Delphi"?
As explained in the Delphi Museum article, project codenamed Delphi hatched in mid 1993. Why Delphi? It was simple: "If you want to talk to [the] Oracle, go to Delphi". (because of the temple of Delphos)

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David Muckle

LISP is so named because it is a LISt Processor.

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George Marr

Great article!

It's really cool to see the origins behind programming languages, especially if they have unique stories.

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Thomas Mayer

Firefox had to be renamed from Firebird, because of the already database server with this name (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firebird_(da...).

It came to be with the split of the Mozilla suite into two independant products, the other one is the mail software Thunderbird.

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Peter Kim Frank

Great article! Love this list.

I remember learning about "Ubuntu" (the philosophy) at a school talk and assumed it was complete coincidence that it was also the name of an operating system.

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Amit Merchant Author

Glad you liked it!

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aar

That was very interesting to read. Thank you.

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Jérôme TAMARELLE

The first name of Symfony was Sensio Framework, from which became the initials sf. Sensio (Labs) is me company behind the framework.

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Rodolfo Ferro

What a beautiful article!

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MARK ARMSTRONG

Awesome Job, Amit-
Passing this on as a quiz for Devs who are job hunting.

This should be a real kick to their ego when they fail the test. ( I get to negotiate a lower pay scale) haha