April 12, 2007
Jaiku vs. Twitter: Battle of the Problematic Brand Names
For those who are unfamiliar with Twitter, the latest offering from the creators of Odeo, Obvious Corp., it exists to allow people to answer the question “What are you doing now?” in 40 characters or less, by SMS (short message service), IM (instant messaging), or through a web interface.
Twitter enjoys remarkable popularity among Web 2.0 early adopters, but recently suffered a blow when Leo Laporte, the most-followed member, decided to switch from Twitter to Finnish rival Jaiku.
Why the switch? Because of the name. Leo Laporte hosts a popular podcast called This Week in Tech, commonly abbreviated “TWiT” and pronounced, you guessed it, “twit.” And that means any name with “twit” in it causes problems for Laporte:
"The problem is the name. I wish to heck he'd named it Tweeter, or Tooter, or anything but Twitter. Twitter is so close to TWiT that I'm afraid it's really confusing. And it hasn't helped the confusion that I've been such a fan of Twitter. I'm sure half the people there think we have some sort of relationship. But we don't. And the proliferation of programs like Twitbox and sites like Twit This are not helping things much."
But while there’s no chance of confusion with “TWiT,” the name “Jaiku” has problems of its own. Jaiku co-founder Jyri Engeström said this about the product name in an interview with Kristen Nicole on April 7th:
"We came up with the name Jaiku because the posts on Jaiku resemble Japanese haikus. A haiku is a short poem about the moment that a person is living through even as they are writing it down. In Finland too the nomadic Lapp people share stories by singing Joikus. We liked the name Jaiku mainly because it had a fun sound to it."
It’s a clever name. The only problem is, nowhere on the Jaiku website or the Jaikido blog does anyone explain just what that “fun pronunciation” is.
Which language’s rules should we be applying to that initial “J”?
- Spanish would give us an “H” sound, which brings out the relationship to “haiku.”
- But Jaiku’s creators aren’t Spanish, they’re Finnish, and in Finnish that “J” is pronounced like the “Y” in “yes.”
- English-speakers who don’t live near the Mexican border will automatically pronounce the “J” as a consonant.
- And I won’t even get into the different possible pronunciations of the diphthong “ai.”
Come on, guys, give us some help. If we’re going to help spread the word about Jaiku, we need to be able to say the name of the product we’re raving about.
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