Developing Perspective

#173: Roses by Other Names


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective. Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing

00:00:04   news of notes in iOS development, Apple, and the like. I'm your host, David Smith. I'm

00:00:08   an independent iOS developer based in Herndon, Virginia. This is show number 173, and today

00:00:14   is Wednesday, February 5th. Developing Perspective is never longer than 15 minutes, so let's

00:00:19   get started. All right, so first a quick note. I'm trying something a little different with

00:00:23   the show notes for this episode. I want to just give you some feedback on it, whether

00:00:27   like or not, I don't like it.

00:00:29   I'm making it kind of more like a half blog post, half podcast

00:00:32   episode in the hopes of kind of making it a bit more searchable

00:00:36   by myself and others later on.

00:00:37   So just that's kind of what's going on there.

00:00:39   That's why it's this very long form, more prose, verbose kind of thing

00:00:43   than what I've done in the past.

00:00:44   So let me know if that works for you.

00:00:46   All right, so the topic I'm going to talk about today is naming.

00:00:50   I think something I've talked about a few times before.

00:00:52   This is coming-- this is at the forefront of my mind

00:00:54   as a result of the sort of the paper on paper on paper on paper battle that has been raging

00:01:00   where Facebook had an app called Paper that then the other app called Paper said was their

00:01:05   name and then there's other apps that are related to that both into the name itself

00:01:11   in the app store versus and also the company name for it's like I had to draw a big like

00:01:15   a flow chart to try and keep track of what on earth was actually going on. And that isn't

00:01:20   quite as interesting or as useful for me to talk about, I think. But I was curious about

00:01:24   kind of trying to unpack what's going on there and some of the realities of the store, some

00:01:29   of the considerations you have in naming in the app store for an application development,

00:01:33   and kind of just generally some guidelines that I've learned from dealing with this.

00:01:38   And so I'm not specifically going to talk about their situation. And the funny thing

00:01:41   is I've actually been in very much the same situation they've been for one of my apps,

00:01:45   which I'll talk about in the middle of the show. But it's a tricky thing. And it's very

00:01:49   it mostly difficult because the name of a something is very often-- it's what you associate

00:01:56   with something. It's very hard to develop something and not get attached to the name

00:02:00   of it to have that name have an extra value and an extra meaning beyond what some other

00:02:08   parts of your application might do. It's UI, while it's something you might want-- you

00:02:13   might feel a sense of ownership with. The name and what you call it is even more so

00:02:17   so, something that you will value and feel

00:02:21   personally associated with.

00:02:22   And so it gets tricky when people

00:02:23   start-- you start getting people who are using the name,

00:02:26   or when you feel slighted or sort of taken advantage

00:02:31   of in that way.

00:02:32   It can be even trickier than a lot of other areas.

00:02:35   And the name is important, too.

00:02:36   It's not just something that's important for you.

00:02:38   It's also important for your customers,

00:02:39   because it's how they're going to relate to your application.

00:02:42   It's how they're going to tell their friend, hey,

00:02:44   I got this great new app.

00:02:46   And then they're going to tell their friend the name.

00:02:48   They're not necessarily going to tell them the App Store ID

00:02:50   number or the URL or something like that.

00:02:52   They're going to give it its name.

00:02:53   And so it's important for the application

00:02:55   to have a name that is recognizable, that is useful,

00:02:58   that is something that you can really

00:03:00   tie people around to.

00:03:01   And so it's an important topic.

00:03:03   And I think that's why it always is a little bit hot button.

00:03:08   A quick disclaimer, as always-- it's important to mention,

00:03:11   but hopefully it comes without saying-- I'm not a lawyer.

00:03:15   So some of the things I'm going to talk about here have legal ramifications and please don't

00:03:19   believe base legal or branding decisions solely on the recommendation of a 15 minute podcast

00:03:23   by a guy sitting in a cupboard.

00:03:25   So on we go.

00:03:27   So first I'm going to talk about just some general high level considerations about choosing

00:03:31   a name.

00:03:32   And really you and your name when you're when you're naming something you can kind of can

00:03:35   fall into two broad categories.

00:03:38   It can be a very unique, contrived or invented name, something that you're just kind of making

00:03:44   up. And the advantage of these is that it makes it they're typically very easy to much

00:03:48   easier to defend or protect because you've made something up. And so if someone else

00:03:52   uses the same name, they're very clearly copying what you're doing. So an example of some of

00:03:56   these things we like group on YouTube, Snapchat, Pinterest, things that are not actual words,

00:04:03   you're not going to be able to go to the dictionary, at least when you first create it, and look

00:04:07   something up, because it's a made up word, you invented it. And so the advantage of that

00:04:12   is, you know, it's unique and it's, you know, it's very defendable in that way. It's your

00:04:17   name, you made it up. If someone else uses it, they're like, "Hey, you copied what I

00:04:20   did."

00:04:21   And the other general class of names are things that are more generic terms or partially generic

00:04:25   terms. And so there's some examples of this or things like, for example, I have an audiobooks

00:04:29   app and the paper that motivated this whole thing, flashlight, camera, you know, things

00:04:33   that have very generic terms in them that are great in terms of being recognizable and

00:04:39   being having sort of a native built in search optimization characteristic that if people

00:04:44   are looking for something, you know, if someone's searching for a newspaper, they might search

00:04:48   for paper. But that's might just be what they refer to as a newspaper or they, you know,

00:04:53   like canvas or whatever it is like people are going to easily search for the exact name

00:04:57   of your application potentially, which has a lot of value to it, but are typically much

00:05:01   more tricky to defend or to lay claim to. For example, some of these things might not

00:05:06   be able to be trademarked. You know, it's just a tricky thing when you start heading

00:05:10   down that road. But generally, those are kind of the two ways that you can name an app.

00:05:14   You can give it a very contrived name or a more generic name. And there's pros and cons

00:05:18   to both. Increasingly, I think I'm heading down the path of favoring the more contrived

00:05:23   and invented names. I've had some success with generic names. But because the nature

00:05:29   of them is always going to, it's going to invite and create this collision and this

00:05:33   conflict. It's very often sort of more trouble than it's worth to actually go with. And so

00:05:38   generally, I'd recommend heading more in the contrived invented name route or taking a

00:05:43   word that is, you know, potentially a dictionary word, but applying it in a very different

00:05:48   way. You know, for example, an app like Vesper by Q branch is a good example of where, you

00:05:54   know, Vesper is a word. It's, you know, it's a word you'll find in the dictionary, but

00:05:57   it's being applied in a very different context than where it was actually, you know, it's

00:06:01   It's not like if you look up Vesper in the dictionary, you're going to find task management

00:06:04   or note taking or those types of things.

00:06:07   So you can apply a generic term in a very different way as one approach to this, or

00:06:12   you can completely just invent a word.

00:06:14   And generally that works fairly well.

00:06:17   The App Store is a funny place though with names.

00:06:19   And there's a couple of things that I've found sort of just having been existing in the store

00:06:23   for a while.

00:06:24   Some of them are awkward and some of them are just plain realities of being in the store.

00:06:29   And the first thing I wanted to talk about is App Store name squatting, which is basically

00:06:35   when someone goes into iTunes Connect, creates an app, gives it a name, and then lays claim

00:06:40   to that name, even if they're not necessarily going to use it to sell an actual product

00:06:44   or if they're just sort of going to hold it hostage or whatever.

00:06:46   This is a classic problem with domain registration years ago.

00:06:52   And generally, it's not as big of a problem as it is now because of what I'll talk about

00:06:55   in a minute.

00:06:56   Apple generally has a variety of policies in place to prevent this.

00:07:00   I think once you register a name, you have to at least have submitted an app and had

00:07:06   that go through the review process within, I can't remember if it's 60 days or 90 days,

00:07:10   but you have a window where you have to actually try and make use of it.

00:07:14   Otherwise you'll lose rights to that.

00:07:16   But it still happens, and that's not to say someone couldn't just create a junk app and

00:07:22   put it out in the store to, you know, sort of to lock up the name, which is something

00:07:25   that happens. But even more of an issue with that at this point is that as of today, I

00:07:31   went to App Shopper and I looked and they said that there's been basically one and a

00:07:34   half million apps have been approved over the life of the App Store. And with a pool

00:07:38   of names that large, it's very likely that almost all of the basic short, you know, sort

00:07:43   of nouns and verbs in the App Store have been used at this point. You know, it's not something

00:07:48   that, you know, with a pool of possibilities that that's that large, you're almost certainly

00:07:52   going to have a lot of, you know, the basics pulled up in the same way that with domains,

00:07:56   you know, all of the four or five, six letter, you know, dot com domains have long since

00:08:00   been claimed and used. And that same thing is fairly true in the App Store, that there's

00:08:04   not a there's fewer and fewer kind of dictionary words that are going to be available just

00:08:08   simply based on the volume of the App Store. And another thing that's also probably worth

00:08:13   pointing out is, initially, I always thought that it was impossible to duplicate exactly

00:08:19   a name of something else from another app in the App Store. That essentially who claimed

00:08:23   it first got it, you know, it's sort of, it's like the old colonial model where all the

00:08:28   different countries are going out and they go out and they put their flag on the island

00:08:31   and say, you know, I claim this flag. I claim this island for Britain, I claim this island

00:08:35   for France, and they're kind of going through in that way. And I thought that was the way

00:08:39   it worked in the App Store. But the reality is, that isn't always true. And there's a

00:08:42   a variety of mechanisms that I don't really want to get into, whether by guile or glitch,

00:08:47   it's possible to duplicate exactly a name in the app store. And that's a little bit

00:08:52   tricky and can be often surprising if you're on the receiving end of that, where you thought

00:08:56   you had claimed a name, and then suddenly another app with exactly the same name exists

00:09:01   in the store. So just keep that in mind. It is possible, and it isn't one of these things

00:09:05   that you should be like, "Oh my goodness, what happened?" It's like, it happens. It's

00:09:07   It's not necessarily supposed to happen, but it can happen.

00:09:11   And beyond even just that direct duplication,

00:09:13   where someone copies exactly the name of your app,

00:09:16   it's also possible for them to basically do it indirectly,

00:09:19   where you take the core name and then you add characters

00:09:21   to the end of it.

00:09:22   So you'll often see this sometimes

00:09:24   will be like an app name, dash, and then

00:09:25   like a tagline or a subtitle or those types of things.

00:09:29   Or you'll see it where they just add a character to the end.

00:09:31   And the poster board example for this

00:09:34   is if you ever go to the App Store and search for flashlight,

00:09:37   You'll see tons of these where it's like it's flashlight,

00:09:40   and then every possible symbol you could imagine.

00:09:43   Flashlight period, flashlight comma, flashlight exclamation

00:09:45   mark, question mark, question mark, emoji.

00:09:48   And sometimes this is done to improve search optimization

00:09:52   where you'll take the name of the application,

00:09:54   you'll add a tagline to the end, and those

00:09:56   are free keywords in terms of you're typically

00:09:59   limited to only 100 characters of keywords in your App Store

00:10:03   search keyword box.

00:10:04   But you can take extra characters

00:10:06   and put them in your name, which is also

00:10:08   included in your keywords.

00:10:09   And so that's why some people do it.

00:10:11   And some people do it just to essentially

00:10:13   to try and create that confusion where

00:10:15   if you can make the core part of your name

00:10:18   look very similar to someone else's name

00:10:20   and then add a bunch of characters to the end

00:10:22   so that you can easily submit it to the App Store, that

00:10:24   can create this kind of-- that tension and that duplication.

00:10:28   Another thing that's also probably worth mentioning

00:10:30   in that is that your search engine optimization--

00:10:33   and by that I mean the App Store search--

00:10:36   is a very important part of the branding of your application

00:10:38   and the marketing of it.

00:10:39   And so the name you choose is certainly part of that.

00:10:43   Because like I said, you only get 100 characters of keywords,

00:10:46   and then you have the app's name.

00:10:47   Those are the only components, really, that get driven

00:10:50   into search as far as we know.

00:10:51   And so being very careful about what you put as your name

00:10:55   is an important part of this.

00:10:56   Because that's why a lot of apps, for example,

00:10:59   in the camera category have camera actually in the name.

00:11:02   Camera Plus, Camera Awesome, Camera Plus with the symbol,

00:11:05   camera plus with the word, whatever it is, because that's a huge part of how people are

00:11:10   going to be actually able to find it. So you have to be thoughtful about it when you're

00:11:13   building it because you can't just name it anything and assume people are going to be

00:11:17   able to find it. All right. The next thing I wanted to talk just a little bit briefly

00:11:20   about is what I'm going to call appealing to higher powers. And the fact that trademarks

00:11:27   are the legal means of which you can protect a name. And a trademark is basically a legal

00:11:31   or whatever you want to call it, to allow you to trade under a particular name and to

00:11:35   prevent other people from doing commerce under that same name. And typically trademarks are

00:11:41   focused around preventing customer confusion. Their goal is to say that if someone has trademarked

00:11:47   a product name that they're the only person who's going to be able to use that. And so

00:11:52   that way customers aren't going to get confused when they are making, you know, so sort of

00:11:56   -- they think they're getting one product and they're actually getting another one.

00:12:01   trademarks aren't a panacea. They don't solve this problem necessarily in that, you know,

00:12:05   and as with anything involving lawyers, it is only really, it's only sort of a part of

00:12:09   a question of who is the who's right in a trademark dispute, you know, who actually

00:12:13   has the right, the appropriate trademark, who's been using it for the longest time,

00:12:16   who's been using it in the correct way, etc. You know, more often than not, it's going

00:12:20   to come down to who can fight the longest fight, who can fight the best fight, and who

00:12:23   can convince the highest power, whatever that may be, to take their side. And so, you know,

00:12:28   being the little guy getting kind of trampled on by somebody with a bigger budget is certainly

00:12:31   going to feel unfortunate. But that's just sort of the reality that we have to understand

00:12:35   as you know, as an independent developer, that's just something that I understand that

00:12:39   if somehow I ended up in a fight against Facebook, I'm unlikely to win that on a legal front,

00:12:44   even if I may be in the right for whatever right means. And generally, I'd say with Apple

00:12:48   and the sort of there the in some ways the canonical higher power in the in all this,

00:12:52   they seem to have a very reasonable sort of two tier approach, that I would commend them

00:12:57   for the way that whenever there is a clear violation of a simple, valid trademark, they're

00:13:01   very quick to act. I've seen a lot of people make claims to a trademark or a copyright

00:13:05   thing and they'll tell Apple about it and within a few hours it's taken down. That happens

00:13:10   all the time and it's a very good process in that way. But Apple generally seems to

00:13:15   take the approach that when things get gray, as they get more complicated, they'll start

00:13:19   taking steps back and let the parties work it out themselves, which can be a little frustrating

00:13:23   you're in that fight. But ultimately, it seems like that's sort of what has to happen because

00:13:27   otherwise Apple's in a very awkward place of sort of picking winners and things and applying laws,

00:13:32   you know, across the world and all these types of things and interpreting things and trying to

00:13:36   arbitrate things that would get very complicated very quickly and require a lot of, you know,

00:13:40   a lot of time and energy for things that I'm not sure they would necessarily be an appropriate

00:13:44   venue for. And so things ultimately have to be, you know, get sorted out between arbitration,

00:13:47   between your lawyers, between just, you know, gentleman conversations, that type of thing.

00:13:52   And generally, I think that approach works pretty well.

00:13:53   But just keep that in mind that don't think that if you just

00:13:56   tell Apple about it, it'll always immediately

00:13:59   be dealt with.

00:14:00   That sometimes you're going to have to work this out yourself.

00:14:03   So anyway, where does that leave us?

00:14:06   And so the thing that I would say generally

00:14:08   to most independent developers is try and have a unique name.

00:14:12   Just go as unique as possible and you

00:14:15   avoid a lot of this problem.

00:14:16   You can incorporate generic terms as part of that.

00:14:18   So for example, an app like Fantastical

00:14:20   is a great way to do it where you put the word Cal inside of your calendar app and that'll

00:14:24   help. And then just use your keywords to work on the search engine optimization part of

00:14:28   it and not worry about it. Otherwise, you just kind of have to trademark that, you hope

00:14:33   for the best, and just see what happens.

00:14:35   All right, that's it for today's show. As always, if you have questions, comments, concerns,

00:14:39   or complaints, I'm _DavidSmith, David@DevelopingPerspective.com. Otherwise, I hope you have a great week.

00:14:44   Happy coding and I'll talk to you later. Bye.