A lot of our users and friends have asked this question, so I’ll tell the story here (thank you, Alfa, for reminding me to write about this). Spokeo sounds as random as other websites like Bebo, Meebo, Google, … That said, we didn’t decide it over a drinking party. In fact, we’ve spent two weeks to name our project.
From the very beginning, we want a name that’s consistent with our web address. We don’t want to be in Nissan’s situation, where they have to use "www.nissanusa.com" for their site, as opposed to "www.nissan.com". The web address is the heart and soul of a website (Do you think Facebook can be this popular if it’s called "Xpci"?), so we want a name that’s short, meaningful, and easy-to-remember.
If you haven’t noticed, all the meaningful names are taken on the Web. Addresses like Business.com and Wiki.com worth several millions (there is a huge business for just trading these web addresses). Also, you cannot find any name shorter than two syllables, even if it sounds terrible and means nothing. Go to http://www.register.com, type in any word on your mind, and you’ll know what I am talking about here.
We didn’t have thousands of dollars to buy a meaningful domain (we still don’t), and honestly, we didn’t really know what we are going to build at that time. We only have a vision – to automate the way we connect with friends. We see people’s social graphs as hubs-and-spokes; unfortunately, both "www.hub.com" and "www.spoke.com" are taken. After pronouncing "hub" and "spoke" over and over again, Ray decided that "spoke" sounds better. Subsequently, we started appending different letters and words after the word "spoke". We eventually limited our choices to "Spokeo" and "Spokea", and we chose "Spokeo" because "O" looks like a friendship circle.
In sum, Spokeo signifies friendships and circles. Although there are a lot of social networks out there, we believe that there is still a lot to be done, especially in the area of automatically managing your growing online friendships. We haven’t reached our goal yet; after all, I think a lot of you are still confused about what Spokeo does. We will try harder to make Spokeo even simpler and more convenient to use.
Now you will wonder, why the hedgehog? I have written a lot for today, so I will leave the story of our mascot for next week. In the meantime, you can guess the name of that hegehog (yes, he does have a name). If you guess it right, we will mail you a small, secret gift to your house.