Amazon

How did Amazon get its name?

How did Amazon get its name
By 1998, Amazon had already branched into 24 different categories

It seems incredible to imagine now, but Amazon used to be a tiny company. Just a gleam in Jeff Bezos’ eyes. And until a fateful call to his lawyer, Amazon wasn’t going to called Amazon at all, but Cadabra. Here’s how Amazon got its name, in Jeff Bezos’ own words.

“Almost seven years ago now,” said Bezos back in 2001, “I started this amazing journey called Amazon.com. Actually, at that time it wasn’t even called Amazon.com. It was called Cadabra Inc, as in Abracadabra, that was the original name of the company. And I had phoned a lawyer on the way to Seattle from a cellphone, to incorporate the company, and he said ‘What do you want the company to be called?’

“I said ‘Cadabra’, and he said ‘Cadaver?’ And I knew that was a bad name. We changed it a few months later.”

Why did Bezos choose Amazon?

Back in the mid-1990s, we didn’t have Google. When we wanted to find a site, we used online directories structured in a similar manner to the Yellow Pages. If I wanted to buy a book, I headed to the online shops listings, then the subcategory of books, and finally a list of available online bookstores would appear.

And that’s why Bezos, according to his biography Jeff Bezos: The Founder of Amazon.com, decided his prime need was for the name to begin with the letter ‘A’. He thumbed through the dictionary to find a suitable word, and when he hit Amazon he knew this was it. Think Amazon, and you think of the world’s biggest river. What better name to back his ambition to become the world’s biggest online bookshop?

The names Amazon could have been

While it would be neat to wrap the story up there, this isn’t the whole truth. According to The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, Bezos and two close associates spent a long time coming up with names. One backs up the idea of top-of-listings appeal, but I suspect that aard.com (“aard” means earth in Dutch) wouldn’t have conquered the world in the same way.

During 1994, Cadabra Inc also reserved a number of possible URLs. There was Relentless.com, which still redirects to Amazon.com, and the company also registered Awake.com, Browse.com, and Bookmall.com. One friend even suggested MakeItSo.com, inspired by Captain Piccard in Star Trek, but thankfully that one never happened.

But once Bezos had settled on Amazon.com, that was it. He registered the URL Amazon.com in November 1994 and the company sold its first book online in July 1995. For the record, it was called Fluid Concepts & Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought. A little less catchy than Amazon.com.

Now read this: How do I get a refund from Amazon after 30 days?

About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email tim@bigtechquestion.com

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