Google has unveiled its new browser, and instead of sticking with its branded-house naming convention (Google Mail, Google Docs, Google Maps, etc.), they’ve chosen to give this offering a bit more kick: Google Chrome.
Web developers have long used the term “chrome” to refer to the browser frame surrounding the content—the toolbars, address window, scrollbars, status bar, etc. While “chrome” is a value-neutral concept, developers have often griped about the amount of screen real estate that the browser chrome consumes. The more screen area the chrome uses, the less there is for content.
So, to a certain degree, there’s a negative aspect to “chrome”. It’s what developers want less of.
In an interview with APC, Sundar Pichai, Google’s VP for product management, explained how the browser came to be called Chrome.
It’s one of the ironic things about the Chrome project actually. We wanted to minimise the chrome in the browser — the bar of the browser window — everything you see other than the web page. The model of the team was “content, not chrome”. So the word “chrome” was used a lot and that was the codename for the project. When we went through our naming exercise, all the alternatives were shot down in favour of Chrome… we tried all sorts of names, but ultimately the team wanted to stay with Chrome.
Argue, if you like, whether Google should have deviated from its branded-house strategy, but from a purely brand naming perspective, Chrome really shines.
Chrome is a great example of a name with layers of meaning. Although there are some negative connotations associated with “chrome” in the minds of Web developers, the word is rife with positive associations for the mass audience of Web users, largely because of its automotive uses. “Shiny.” “New.” “Fancy.” “Extra.” “Smooth.” “Bright.” “Polished.”
Also, it’s a familiar word with instant meaning, and it’s relatively short and easy to spell. As a bonus, within the Web browser category, it’s quite an unconventional and surprising term—least, to a general audience—which heightens its impact.
And as research has shown, the fact that it conjures a concrete mental image makes it more memorable than an abstract or meaningless word. Because it’s memorable and easy to say, it will travel readily by word of mouth. If Chrome performs well as a browser, expect early-adopters to talk it up around the office water cooler, just as they did with Google’s pioneering search engine when it was introduced in the late 90’s.
As a brand name, Chrome’s a winner. And now I’m off to download the browser to see if I can say the same thing about the product.