In late 2012, we were getting somewhere with this unnamed side project that was supposed to replace our overpriced New Relic subscription. If we wanted to tell the world about it, it needed a name. This is a brief history of how we came up with the name, and how we landed appsignal.com.
Besides being co-founder, I was also "the name guy” at 80beans, the consultancy where AppSignal was born; you know, the person that comes up with fun names and finds out the .com has been squatted. People looked to me to come up with a name for our project, and we had these requirements: the name had to somewhat explain what the company does, have a .com we could register or buy, and didn’t require guessing the pronunciation (so no missing vowels).
Through the power of association, I started thinking of "in popular culture, how do we indicate that help is needed?” While building a list of names, I thought of Batman, who is summoned by the "bat signal,” a beam of light that projects a bat shape in the night sky. So, bat signal… app signal! Though I can make a big deal out of it and pretend I made this huge list of names, narrowed it down to a shortlist of five followed by focus group testing… it literally boiled down to me pondering for no more than fifteen minutes.
Alright, so how about AppSignal.com? The domain name had already been registered for a long time. As far as I can tell, based on a report I bought from DomainTools, it was first registered in late 2004, released a few times, registered by a few domain squatters, and by September 2012, it had changed ownership no less than seven times. While taking a close look at its whois record, I noticed that the current squatter hadn’t renewed the domain name 89 days and 14 hours prior. That’s when it went into its 90-day quarantine period, and I found out about it 10 hours before it would be unregistered again! We didn’t want to take any chances, so we signed up for a service that hammers "the system” directly when a domain name comes out of quarantine. That way, we wouldn’t have to stay up all night to manually fill out a form as quickly as possible, not knowing if someone else was doing the same. It wasn’t free, though… said service charged us a whopping $50 service fee and a $19 one-year registration fee.
The next morning I woke up to an email that we secured this 8-year-old domain name for just $69, on the same day we came up with the name. We took it as an omen: since then, we're AppSignal.