NOTE: We're not going through and re-evaluating / changing every site name in the network. The guidelines below are what we will use for new sites created going forward, and if the community supports it, we'll be dropping the "& Usage" part of our language sites only. no other names for existing sites are changing.
With 110 sites in the Stack Exchange network, now is a good time for us to think about how our current sites are named and how we should name them going forward.
Obviously, the primary goal of a site name is to reflect the topic and audience for that site. This process begins in Area 51 with the names of proposals. Followers of the proposal sometimes discuss tweaks and refinements to the original names, and the community team generally does a check to make sure that the name is an accurate reflection of the stated purpose of each proposal, but when we step back and look at trends, we realize that we've fallen into a few bad habits:
- Some of our site names are pretty outrageously long. "Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair Stack Exchange" doesn't exactly glide off the tongue easily if you want to talk to your friends about the site.
- Sometimes our site titles contain words that don't really add anything meaningful to the title. Until now, our language sites have followed the naming convention of "X Language & Usage Stack Exchange", but why? It seemed to make sense at the time, but as we've grown, it's become clear that "& Usage" isn't really necessary. A site about a particular language is, by definition, concerned with the usage of that language — that's where all the questions come from!
Guidelines for new site names
Going forward, we're going to try to keep a few general principles in mind when naming our sites. First and foremost, we want naming sites to be common sense. But on top of that:
Names should be as short as possible while clearly capturing sites’ topics.
Language sites (with one major exception, which I'll get to in a minute) should generally just be called "X Language Stack Exchange" — we should drop our habit of tacking on "& Usage", and keep the site names short.
We should avoid having ampersands (and thus multiple topics) as much as possible, except where absolutely necessary for clarification purposes.
The subdomain should match the site title as closely as possible (even if it's not the shortest possible subdomain we could use). We can still create redirects if there's a true need for them.
We typically avoid renaming sites once they've gotten out of Area 51 — and especially if they've graduated and received a custom site design — and that continues to be true. I am not suggesting that we go through and rename the majority of sites that currently exist.
However, one specific group that I'd like to discuss is the language sites.
Revisiting the names of our language sites
We recently launched Italian Language (in private beta at the time of this writing), and its astute users noticed that we dropped the "& Usage" from the name. Going forward, that's the naming scheme we'll use as a default — just "X Language".
I would also like to address the existing language sites. Given that most of them are in beta and therefore wouldn't need a complete redesign to accommodate a name change, I think it's worth standardizing them to the new format by dropping "& Usage" from the title.
There needs to be one major exception to this naming convention, though. I do not propose changing the names of our two English sites; English Language & Usage and English Language Learners should remain as they are. The most obvious reason is because there are two sites whose names are very similar — those extra words are needed to disambiguate the purpose of each site. Furthermore, English Language & Usage is by far our oldest language site, and the only graduated language site; the name has been used for a long time, and changing it now would be more confusing than leaving it as is.
I'm posting an abbreviated version of this proposal to each language site's meta so that each community can have a discussion about its particular concerns, but I wanted to open up a general thread here for discussion of the policy as a whole.
Update 11/25: Thanks for your feedback! We're going to go ahead and drop "& Usage" from the site title of all our language sites except English. Those changes will be made in the next couple of days.