e-mail symbol -- e or i before  name

Has the whole e or i before a name thing been overdone?

For those who have been around the world of Internet marketing for a while, this is going to be a trip down memory lane. The whole question of adding an e or an I to the beginning of your company name or web address is one which began back during the first .com bubble and bust.
Back then, many of you will recall that there were hundreds of companies that had appended the e to their names in order to look cool. Two that still exist today are eBay and E-Trade. However, let’s not forget the defunct e-Toys, e-Home and e-Bank, all of which were at one time high flying companies with supposedly bright futures.
All three domains are currently owned by companies other than the ones that started their sites way back when and are but a handful of examples of failed .com companies.

Why the “e”?

In case you’ve been living under a rock somewhere or you’re too young to remember the 1990s, the e stands for electronic as in electronic mail (e-mail). Back in the 1990s, that was the big deal (I still recall that back then in the early 1990s, I was one of the first people to include his e-mail address [from CompuServe no less – remember them?] on his business cards).
The trend grew to a frenzy toward the end of the last century, with new “e” companies opening up every day, many of them without a hint of an idea of how to make any money, but all of them seemingly flush with cash from venture capitalists that wanted to invest because they believed that anything on the Internet must be worth its weight in gold.
One more trip down memory lane before we move on from the e business – I still recall laughing when I read in the New York Times that one business professor had said, only half jokingly that as a final exam question in his business class, he’d ask his students to put a value on a popular .com company. He then declared that any of his students who bothered to try to answer would flunk, since it was impossible to accurately value companies that had no revenue but seemed to be attracting new capital by the second.
The whole thing came crashing down back in 2001 when the .com bubble burst and hundreds of billions of dollars evaporated because people realized that these “e” companies didn’t have any real way of making money.

Why the “I”?

If you don’t know why the “I,” then I suggest you find someone to tutor you in basic modern computing. I mean seriously – the iPhone, iMac, iTunes, etc.? The whole thing has become another fad just like the e thing was back in the last century, though that too seems to finally be calming down.

But Does it Work?

Now, after that rather long introduction to this whole concept of the “e” and the “I,” let’s examine what this blog post is really about – does it work to include an e or an I in your business name? The answer is a definite…maybe.

The “e” is Dead

Actually, in the case of the “e” in front of your company name, it’s not a definite maybe. Not really. The whole “e” trend is dead, right alongside the whole “compu” trend (CompuServe again, not to mention CompuBank and CompUSA). It’s seen as very last century and is really not something that’s going to add any cache to your company.

But what about eBay and E-Trade?

Yes, both of those companies started out with the whole “e” thing going for them. I’m sure that if I looked hard, I could find a handful of other companies that still exist and which are doing well with the “e” in their names.
However, the question isn’t whether a company can succeed with such a name. The question is whether it helps for a new company and for this, I’d have to say no. The ship has sailed and putting an “e” in front of a brand new company name is unlikely to help you and could even make you seem out of touch with modern reality.

The “I” is a Maybe

Soon after Steve Jobs introduced the iPod, the world became enthralled with the lower case i in front of everything and companies sprang up to capitalize on this new fad. The thing I find ironic about the whole thing is that I’m pretty sure Jobs meant it as a tongue in cheek joke, as if to say this is the .com thing 2.0 (I’m basing myself on nothing but my own supposition and the list of vowels I learned in second grade –A,E,I,O,U).

It Still Has Some Cache, for Certain Businesses

If you happen to be running a business which caters to the whole Mac and Apple fanboy crowd, then starting a new business with the letter I in front of it could very well help you get people in the door.
However, you need to be careful because the lower case I is a brand, not in the sense that it’s trademarked (I’m reasonably certain it’s not), but because it makes you identify with Apple exclusively and if you are running a more general interest company, it’s not necessarily a good idea to do that (there are plenty of Apple haters out there who will always look for the underdog).

My Suggestion – Go for the M

Now if you want my suggestion (and this is actually a completely serious suggestion and not something which is meant to be tongue in cheek — well, maybe just a little, but it’s still a good idea, I think) is to go for an M in front of a name.

Why the “M?”

I’ve been reading a lot lately about how the whole tablet and smart phone market is exploding and is expected to become the next “big thing” as far as how people access the Internet. Fewer and fewer people are now accessing the web using desktop computers or even laptops and more and more people are using smart phones and to a lesser extent, tablets to do their business online.

What it All Means

The whole mobile computing thing does seem to be set to become the “next big thing” in the world of computing. Especially when you consider that many people in poorer parts of the world have simply skipped completely over a generation of technology and gone straight to mobile.
I remember reading a few years back how a number of African villages, which had never had land line telephone service or electric lines, were getting cellular service and charging using solar power. The market, which currently stands at around 2 billion people (all told, not just those with smart phones), is massive and it’s ripe for the picking. The people who learn how to capitalize on this business are, I believe the ones who will lead the next .com boom.

It’s Mobile

In case you were wondering why I said M by the way, my thought is that the M stands for “mobile” as in mobile phone. Heck, you can even find that many cell phone specific websites are designated with the m before the URL in order to indicate that the site is mobile friendly. So why not take advantage of that whole dynamic and capitalize on it? After all, it’s still in the process of coalescing and no one seems to have made a serious claim to the M as of yet.

Stick to Mobile Applications Though

The one caveat I’d recommend though is that if you do want to try my idea (and I’ll take 20% of your profits if you do thank you very much), you should probably follow the same advice as above, regarding the whole “I” thing. It should be used for a company which is based around providing mobile services and not just any old service which you think you can slap an M onto.

In All Seriousness Though

Okay, in all seriousness though, while I do think the M may have some potential for sites which have a specific mobile application, I need to stress that I don’t think that using these cutesy names is necessarily a good idea for everyone. Bottom line, if you run a website or a company which provides something which truly has value, then you’ll have customers regardless of the name you use.