Sean Egan's Blog

The Power of Momentum (continued)

Another good example of the power of momentum is our new name, Pidgin. When we announced our legal troubles and name change, we expected a lot of complaints about the fact that we were forced to secrecy and betrayed some of the core tenets of open-source developemnt. Such complaints would have been entirely valid, and we were ready to apologize profusely to everyone, and beg their understanding. Instead we got comments like:

I don't like the new name. NO ONE will know what the hell "pidgen" is by simply reading the name. Not one person. The name leaves you 100% clueless as to the function of the program. At least "GAIM " gave someone with half a brain a decent chance to figure out what the program might be about. Two thumbs up for a great IM program, two thumbs down for a sucky name change. Irregardless I'll continue to use GAIM and call it GAIM..


For the first few years after we first added support for protocol plugins, we'd hear non-stop repetative complaints about how terrible the name 'Gaim' is. We do so much more than AIM, we should change the name because it's misleading. Of course, we didn't change the name, because we had raised donations to protect the name from a lawsuit by AOL, and were still interesting in keeping it. The name was, however, quite universally panned.

Flash forward a few years. We've reached a settlement regarding the legal disputes. We have a clever new name that alludes to our nature as a multi-protocol client, and lends itself to a neat pigeon mascot (pigeons, of course, being known for carrying messages long distances).

Suddenly, however, Gaim was a great name! How dare we even consider getting rid of it! Whereas years ago, the name misled people into a false sense of what functionality was offered, now it was a perfect description of it! Whereas everyone hated it then, everyone loved it then. Everyone hated Pidgin, but after a few weeks, nobody seems to mind if so much anymore. The momentum has finally died down.

Of course, you can't criticize anything that's open-source without talking about how great Firefox is in comparison, so we got plenty of mention that we should come up with a cool name like Firefox. Of course when Firefox renamed from Firebird, it got comments like:

I still think 'Firefox' stinks. Doesn't roll off the tongue like Mozilla, Firebird, or Phoenix, but I'm sure choosing a name that isn't already taken isn't easy.

Within time, Pidgin will, like Firebird and Gaim, be the greatest name you've ever heard!