You have a startup and you are thinking of a cool name. You think of a couple, check if their domains are free, and guess what – they are not. And if you want them, you need thousands of dollars, which you probably don’t have or don’t want to invest in a domain name. So you start wondering how to change your name in order to get a cheap cool domain name. What I’ve come up with are portmanteaus. That is, combine two or more words into one. You can think of a portmanteau that nobody else has thought of and it will still sound cool. A couple of examples:
Facebook – not exactly the best example, but it’s still comprised of two words. The domain name has been taken initially (hence: thefacebook.com), because the word already exists in the dictionary. But most others don’t.
Pinterest – this is not just putting two words together, it’s “fusing” them. Pin + interest. This fusion is actually a very good approach, and most of the examples here are using it.
Welshare – this is a project of mine that is a special case. It comes from well + share, but it follows other examples from the English language where the double L disappears – welcome, welfare.
Instapaper – instant+paper, probably. It doesn’t necessarily have to convey exactly the purpose of the service, but it’s good if it does.
Eventiply – this is a project I saw on a StartUp Live Europe event, and it’s about event+multiply. It uses only one overlapping letter between the two words, and cuts a part of one of the words, but it sounds cool and is obvious what it means.
Favorb – this is something I’m currently working on (it’s a bit frozen right now actually), but it’s a great example how you can find very short domain names that mean something. Favorb is a combination of favor+orb – it’s about an orb (circle) of favors friends do to each other. The downside is that it’s not obvious how to pronounce.
Petridish – these are two words, but short enough.
Accenture – this isn’t a fresh startup, and they didn’t pick their name because of the domain availability, but it’s still a nice example. Accent + future.
Wikipedia – again, probably didn’t pick the name because of the domain. Wiki + (encyclo)pedia
When choosing a portmanteu (and not only) you can use a domain hack, in case .com is taken. It is a bit odd that you should name your product based on domain name availability, but that’s the reality – your domain is your the name your customers will remember.
So, to summarize the different approaches:
- putting two whole words together
- fusing two words, where the ending of the first is the same as the beginning of the second (pin+interest, favor+orb)
- fusing two words, where the ending of the first is the same as a part of the second, which is cut to that part (event+(mul)tiply, accent+(fu)ture)
- putting partial words together, without fusing (wiki+pedia)
I think portmanteaus are way better than crippling the spelling of your preferred word (using k instead of c, removing silent e or e before r). Having an alternative spelling may be harder to remember and always brings the message “I couldn’t buy the domain name with the real word”. And using full combination of words may lead to too long names. Another alternative, which I don’t like, is adding some general, short word to your name. Like joindiaspora, thefacebook or bufferapp. Having “the” or “app” after your name is not the best idea. Although, obviously, the domain name is not that important (bufferapp and thefacebook got a lot of traction), a portmanteau is short and unique, which makes it my preferred option for domain names for startup projects.