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If I go to the main Stack Exchange website and look at the most popular sites, here are some of the names that pop up (not necessarily in order):

  • Stack Exchange - This is unique and everyone recognizes it.
  • Ask Ubuntu - This is fairly different -- at least it's not just Ubuntu.
  • Super User - This is also unique and widely recognized.
  • Server Fault - Ditto.
  • Cross Validated - Same.
  • Ask Different - This one as well.

All of these sites are more than 3 years old and very successful. However, if I look at the newest sites, there is a different trend:

  • Hinduism - Boring; there is no way to distinguish it except by calling it the Hinduism Stack Exchange.
  • Buddhism - Same.
  • Puzzling - Same.
  • Arduino - Same.
  • Beer - Same.
  • Aviation - Same.

If I said any of these on their own, I would be talking about a field, not a site.

I understand that using simple, descriptive names helps the site get through the beta phase because new users actually can understand what the site is about. Once it has a defined user and question base, however, I feel that a more unique name gives the site a brand identity. I'd be much more likely to mention Stack Overflow, which is simple and easy to say as well as widely recognized, with my coworkers than I would the Beer Stack Exchange, which is as ambiguous as any other beer forum out there.

I propose that when the new sites are moved out of beta, they get to vote on a new name that is both unique and relevant, especially to experts in the field.

16

I propose that when the new sites are moved out of beta, they get to vote on a new name that is both unique and relevant, especially to experts in the field.

I mentioned this in a comment on Patrick's answer, but naming is hard. Domain naming is even harder.

But setting that aside, what you're proposing here isn't branding. It is re-branding and that is a whole different beast. Keep in mind that some sites can be in beta for a long time (on the order of years). After that, asking the community to go through changing its name is excessive. By this time the site has already gained traction and acceptance under its existing moniker and a change for the sake of change isn't likely to be helpful.

Descriptive naming also helps with discovery - you can easily tell what a site is about simply by browsing the list. Besides, not every topic has "Stack Overflow" or "Seasoned Advice" - a descriptive name that is a catchy and recognizable play on words - so it also saves us from having subpar names chosen just for the sake of having one.

We have a network of 100+ communities now. We are bringing new sites online at a steady pace, and we want people to know the name "Stack Exchange" as the place to go to ask their questions about a wide variety of topics.

So with all that in mind, I think overall the shift to descriptive naming is for the best.

  • I think I understand what you're saying for the most part; the only thing I don't get is why redesigning the site is easier than renaming it? – Ian Sep 30 '14 at 15:57
  • @Ian It's not that redesigning is easier...Anna did a good job of outlining why we don't really like to rename sites, but we still want to give communities a little something once they've proven successful. The custom site themes are partly a way for us to say thanks to the community and to reward them for building something great. – Laura Sep 30 '14 at 16:01
  • Alright, I guess that makes sense. – Ian Sep 30 '14 at 16:02
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Although a unique site name is nice, it doesn't make it easier to find. (Like others, I didn't know that AskDifferent was about Apple before visiting the site)

What if we call Aviation Scotty beam me up? It surely looks nice, but does it make the site recognizable?

The other sites you name, like SuperUser are established names, which took some time. They are fine as is, but for the large number of sites coming in now, it might be too much to expect every site to build it's own brand.

Personally I like the simple, clear names. Parents is just about parenting, Beer just about beer.

  • 2
    I didn't have the slightest clue what Ask Different is before visiting the site. Even now, I still have no clue how it relates to Apple. – Stijn Sep 30 '14 at 15:34
  • @Stijn: me too. Ask Ubuntu is much clearer IMHO. – Patrick Hofman Sep 30 '14 at 15:34
  • I know it doesn't make it easier to find, but it doesn't make it that much harder either. It still shows up in Google search results, and it's much easier to share with other experts in the field. – Ian Sep 30 '14 at 15:35
  • Ask Different is honestly not a great example. Names should be way more obvious than that. I can only hope that Apple gurus would recognize that. – Ian Sep 30 '14 at 15:35
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    So what purpose does it serve then? 'It's nice' doesn't win over clarity for me. – Patrick Hofman Sep 30 '14 at 15:35
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    It gives the site a brand; makes it unique. I can connect with Stack Overflow, whereas Ebooks just feels like another forum to me. Also, Ebooks Stack Exchange is a lot harder to say. – Ian Sep 30 '14 at 15:37
  • I can connect with SO too, but that has nothing to do with the name. Programmer.SE would have been fine to me too. – Patrick Hofman Sep 30 '14 at 15:37
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    "Stack Exchange" is the brand all (or at least most) of our sites are under. Picking a custom name for each of our 100+ sites is just insanely hard. The last one that got a custom name was Arqade and that took weeks. – Adam Lear Sep 30 '14 at 15:39
  • That's why I suggested to have the community vote on it. Any site moving out of beta already has a dedicated community that wants to make the site succeed, so it should be that hard to find some excellent names for the new sites without that much Stack Exchange intervention. – Ian Sep 30 '14 at 15:46
  • @Stijn: "Think Different" was an Apple advertising slogan from 1997 to 2002. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Think_different – Keith Thompson Sep 30 '14 at 16:20
  • @AnnaLear I think you meant "years" there for Arqade. ♪ – Grace Note Sep 30 '14 at 16:59

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