25 votes

Coming up with a good personal domain name

This is something I've been struggling with for a couple of months now.

I want to make a website. I have the design I want to implement. I have a few things I want to post there. I have what seems to be a reliable hosting platform ready for use.

What I don't have is the URL.

It's a conceptually-difficult problem, because I want this URL to be permanent. I don't want it to be my name, because I don't want this thing I make to be about me. It's about what I do. This what I do is what needs the name, and I have nothing.

A few people around the Internet know me as ThatFanficGuy, but using that creates false expectations, because my writing is mostly original. A few people around the Internet know me as FirebrandCoding or simply Firebrand – it's my GitHub handle, among other things – but it's an old name that I'd like to transcend.

Essentially – and I hate myself for saying this – I need a brand name. I need a banner to unite the wide collection of all the things I do under a recognizable symbol. I write, worldbuild, code, design, blog, make games, photograph, potentially make music and even record podcasts... All of this needs encapsulation, and I've been racking my brain for a good name to no avail since November.

A great example of such a name would be Magic & Wires. The website is currently empty. It used to be a game dev company, led by Firestream, who made Destiny RPG (now defunct) and Titan Conquest. If you scroll down on the main page of both games, it says "Made of magic and wires", which is such a cool way to use your name. I'm not one for murder, but I'd kill to have a name so cool.

Has anyone experienced something similar? How have you dealt with it? Is there some sort of theory behind picking a good name for your project?

28 comments

  1. [3]
    Douglas
    Link
    Not sure if it compares, but for me, when I’d write scripts and would have to come up with a name, I knew the right name when I saw it. For titling something like yours... all of it’s creative...

    Not sure if it compares, but for me, when I’d write scripts and would have to come up with a name, I knew the right name when I saw it.

    For titling something like yours... all of it’s creative work, and it all sounds pretty busy... maybe something like Spindle? Also has a bit of irony, since sewing is one of the things you didn’t list. And then an adjective or adverb to accompany it to make it more Google-able and unique, like the Buried Spindle, Firey Spindle, Spinning Spindle, or Busy Spindle.

    And then if you’re like me, you now either hate the word Spindle since you’ve said it so much, so you think that’s not it, or you never liked it to begin with— both are fine, because it’s like not knowing what you want for dinner; asking what you don’t want helps narrow in on what you do want.

    Keys & Seas (key as in keyboard but also key as in lock), Sparks of Sapphire (spark as in creativity), Last Strike (strikes are both good and bad in sports, but could also be thought of for matches). Hope I’m helping you whittle down your inner choices! Good luck!

    15 votes
    1. [2]
      ali
      Link Parent
      You’re really good at this. Did you learn this somewhere? Also can I have second dibs if OP does not like keys and seas?

      You’re really good at this. Did you learn this somewhere? Also can I have second dibs if OP does not like keys and seas?

      6 votes
      1. Douglas
        Link Parent
        Thanks! And no, I didn't learn it anywhere. Thinking about it now, I guess it's just something I've always enjoyed doing as it gives me a small "click" feeling, like the ones I'd get when solving...

        Thanks! And no, I didn't learn it anywhere. Thinking about it now, I guess it's just something I've always enjoyed doing as it gives me a small "click" feeling, like the ones I'd get when solving a puzzle.

        3 votes
  2. patience_limited
    Link
    I'm going to toss this out as a brand to unite your myriad projects, based on what you've expressed about online identifiers, overarching goals, diversity of interests, etc. FireInside You'd...

    I'm going to toss this out as a brand to unite your myriad projects, based on what you've expressed about online identifiers, overarching goals, diversity of interests, etc.

    FireInside

    You'd mentioned Firebrand as a nomenclature you're feeling like you've outgrown; "fire inside" gets to the roots of all the creative endeavors.

    First, I'll note that fireinside.com and other TLDs seem to be available.

    Second, it's a little psychological hook into the long legacy of "Intel Inside" and other branding.

    Thirdly, it abstracts your history and persona from your output, but ensures it's a recognizable playground for people to find things they like.

    I'll let you decide if this is at all helpful in thinking about the problem of encapsulating your creativity within something as simultaneously abstruse and commercial as a brand.

    7 votes
  3. [3]
    mxuribe
    (edited )
    Link
    (Apologies for the following long commentary.) This struggle is real. Well, ok, maybe "struggle" is too harsh a word, but i feel you on this topic. It is something that has bitten me in the past....

    (Apologies for the following long commentary.)

    This struggle is real. Well, ok, maybe "struggle" is too harsh a word, but i feel you on this topic. It is something that has bitten me in the past. I get stuck in paralysis by analysis, and overthink things that have to do with identity. Something i sometimes still grapple with it, though less frequently nowadays. When i was younger it was a matter of evolving/growing through my identities; and yes, unfortunately, one should think of it as a (gulp) brand. But, it need not be a nefarious, icky corporate type of branding that you create for yourself.

    It's a conceptually-difficult problem, because I want this URL to be permanent. I don't want it to be my name, because I don't want this thing I make to be about me. It's about what I do. This what I do is what needs the name, and I have nothing.

    Let me begin with the technical concept that - luckily - the web allows for stuff/content to move and shift around...so, if after this exercise you eventually change your mind, you can do URL redirects, and poof, you've morphed into a different URL/domain name. (Obviously it isn't that easy, but it is not as complex either, and it certainly is possible, viable). Just remember to allow yourself the padding to eventually evolve into something else.

    Having said that, my suggestion is to stop thinking about this to much. Just pick a domain name that is associated to you the person, such as your name. I know you stated that this isn't ideal. But from this core domain - again, that represents you - you can either block off specific sections for your myriad content/stuff within this single, same domain name...Or better yet - if you swing this financially - you can get separate, additional domain names for each of your major areas of focus. You have the core domain name associated to your identity, but it links to the other domain names for your different areas of focus (again, finances permitting). See the following ascii diagram as an example of the multiple domain names approach...

    ThatFanficGuy.COM (or FirstLastName.COM) - which points to the underlying other domains/sites
    |
    +------>FanFicWritings.COM (separate blog and writings website)
    |
    +------>FanFicCode.COM (separate coding projects website)
    |
    +------>FanFicGaming.COM (separate gaming website)
    |
    +------>FanFicMedia.COM (separate media website, encompassing alls your photography, music, podcasts)
    |
    +------> ...etc...

    The reason that I've swayed towards domain names associated to a person is because in the last few years I've been following the ways of the indieweb [https://indieweb.org/]. Not to oversimplify the numerous premises, but what if your online username for stuff was also your domain name? (Indieweb is not just this! Please don't only fixate on this.) It seems like websites/domain names - at least in the indieweb world - seem to represent the future of usernames. Ok, maybe not specifically usernames, but online identities. Who knows if that approach will in fact take hold...but for some reason it resonated with me. So, I recommend that you get a domain name that represents your person's identity, that is, a representation of your name...and, then you can add more domain names for each of your different areas of focus, etc.

    Oh, and I fully agree that while searching for domain names, the big companies do capture that info, and try to sell you the domain name at outrageous prices. It is a freaking racket! So, tread carefully, and maybe do a little research on how you can check domain name availability without triggering those algorithms.

    A note about TLDs (top-level-domains)...Unless your content is specific to a country, stick to the main, boring TLDs like .COM, .NET, .ORG., and don't go with country type TLDs (ccTLDs) that are "sold" as alternatives to the main TLDs. Years ago, because the .COM I was searching wasn't available, I chose .CC (to this day I kick myself for not at least trying the .NET or .ORG versions). Hey, .CC was a short and available TLD, and at the time my friend was on this bandwagon that ".CC could stand for computer consultant" (I'm a technologist). The marketing from the registrars helped too, as they sold .CC as not just a ccTLD. Well, offline it has been an annoyance - at least in the U.S. - because here in America anything that is not .COM confuses people alot - even educated, tech-savvy people get confused. (Strangely, outside the U.S., everyone is fine with non-.COM email addresses, and very little confusion happens.) Anyway, beyond the offline annoyances, I'm sure there have been online gaps that I haven't been privy to. I'm sure there have been emails and web traffic that I've lost because big email providers and/or search engines consider my domain name spam-adjacent. (Not because of the .CC TLD alone, but because I'm in the U.S. along with my email and web host, but big providers might consider the TLD sort of representing another country, which triggers their spam sphincters.) Don't get me wrong, I love the uniqueness of my domain name with its .CC ending...But in the end, functionally, I'm not sure its been worth it...so, just go with a .COM, .NET, or .ORG. (And, yes, i have followed my own advice, and have done redirects from .CC to my .COM.) I sincerely wish you good luck trying to find your domain name on .COM, because it seems so much of the namespace is already registered.

    Final word...Again, there's nothing wrong with you changing your "brand" down the line if you so choose to; allow yourself the padding to evolve in the future.

    EDIT: Added ascii diagram example.

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      ThatFanficGuy
      Link Parent
      Thanks for the overview. I know. I'm just aware enough of this to understand that, should I choose to down the line, moving about is an option I can do. I've also seen at least one major brand...

      Thanks for the overview.

      Let me begin with the technical concept that - luckily - the web allows for stuff/content to move and shift around...so, if after this exercise you eventually change your mind, you can do URL redirects, and poof, you've morphed into a different URL/domain name.

      I know. I'm just aware enough of this to understand that, should I choose to down the line, moving about is an option I can do. I've also seen at least one major brand change – Mark Manson did that with his blog, the regular visits for which were very high – that didn't affect the site or its visitation stats at all. I'm fairly confident in that I can do the same thing.

      I'd rather avoid that and settle on something, but – you may right in noting that I'm overthinking it. I begrugingly admit that the domain name being my name is okay. It's a bland choice that I would rather not resort to, but I will have to launch the website eventually – the alternative is letting time and energy go to waste, which is a worse option still – and if that's what I end up with, it wouldn't be the end of the world.

      Unless your content is specific to a country, stick to the main, boring TLDs like .COM, .NET, .ORG., and don't go with country type TLDs (ccTLDs) that are "sold" as alternatives to the main TLDs.

      Thanks for the heads-up.

      Could you sell me on the Indieweb thing? I've been curious about it for a while, but the idea seems impenetrable to me. What does it stand for? What's its goal? Is it a community? a philosophy? a tech stack?

      4 votes
      1. mxuribe
        Link Parent
        Ok, as far as trying to sell you on indieweb, that would require a longer response...but I'll give it a try (hopefully without getting too verbose)... I, personally, consider indieweb a...

        Ok, as far as trying to sell you on indieweb, that would require a longer response...but I'll give it a try (hopefully without getting too verbose)...

        I, personally, consider indieweb a philosophical movement that happens to have a community around it. It would certainly not be considered a specific tech stack. Rather, it combines aspirations to decentralize on the posting and consuming of online content - both your content, and that of others on the web. Instead of posting your valuable content on silos like Facebook, etc., the philosophy of indieweb is to be as independent as possible - hence where the "indie" portion of indieweb originates. Basically, you post YOUR content on a web "property" (website) that YOU control. And if you wish for your content to be seen by as many of your followers, you can also syndicate it to silos like Facebook, etc...But, the important gist here is that the indie philosophy is to have your website be the controlled/master version, and other sites like Facebook, etc. are simply secondary/duplicates for your audience who may only traverse the web via social media sites. It is a matter of control and autonomy of your content. Similarly, you can consume the content of other authors who wish to be in control of their own content, etc. I think the following link might better - and more comprehensively - convey why it is good for as many people as possible to "go indie": https://indieweb.org/why

        Now, as far as getting started, the following link helps with directions: https://indieweb.org/Getting_Started

        I would NOT get too caught up on the tech just yet. Certainly the indieweb site has suggestions on numerous tech stacks, but try the simplest thing that makes sense for a platform that you might have already had in mind (there are so many options nowadays for indieweb). Read some of the other info from the above links and the rest of the indieweb site, and start slow - this is not some speedy race. Furthermore, other open source, decentralization-esque projects like mastodon, pleroma, etc. also are supporting some of the "decentralization" actions that indieweb sites support. There appears to be a convergence of blog post platforms that use indieweb concepts with these open source social media sites like mastodon...eventually, i wouldn't be surprised if future platforms combine functions of both into a single monolithic stack. Let me stop here, as I've gotten too verbose (apologies).

        By all means, should you have any questions, don't be shy to reach out. (I'm by no means an expert, but just happy to help.)

        4 votes
  4. [2]
    cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    This is just a quick tip, but one thing I haven't seen mentioned here yet that I do when hunting for interesting name ideas is to use a thesaurus. If you can think of a word that somewhat...

    This is just a quick tip, but one thing I haven't seen mentioned here yet that I do when hunting for interesting name ideas is to use a thesaurus. If you can think of a word that somewhat encapsulates what you want to convey with your name, just look up synonyms of that word to find one that sounds more interesting/appropriate/catchy as a brand name. And this process can also be repeated until you find something that feels exactly right to you. E.g.

    Author -> Wordsmith -> Scribe
    Fiction -> Fancy -> Fanciful -> Whimsical -> Whimsy
    Creative -> Demiurgic -> Demiurge (potentially a good one for you given your interest in worldbuilding, IMO)
    Etc...

    6 votes
    1. mxuribe
      Link Parent
      The thesaurus is great advice!

      The thesaurus is great advice!

      1 vote
  5. [4]
    krg
    Link
    Hmm...well, I'm not sure this is helpful, but I just try to buy cheap, fun, kinda snarky domains (notmy.best, fake.cool, deep.estate, etc.). Think of a good base name and throw it at Google's...

    Hmm...well, I'm not sure this is helpful, but I just try to buy cheap, fun, kinda snarky domains (notmy.best, fake.cool, deep.estate, etc.). Think of a good base name and throw it at Google's domain search (which is fairly exhaustive), start scrolling and see if something sticks! E.g., here's the listing for "worse."

    5 votes
    1. [3]
      ThatFanficGuy
      Link Parent
      Them's good domains. I think my problem is specificity. Cheap and fun is okay if that's what you're going for. If I have a little funky side project that I'd like to present, fuck yeah I'd go for...

      Them's good domains.

      I think my problem is specificity. Cheap and fun is okay if that's what you're going for. If I have a little funky side project that I'd like to present, fuck yeah I'd go for something like that. This is... me? my stuff? so I give a shit that much more?

      Does Google Domains do that shit when you put in the domain, they indicate interest to third parties who buy off the domain and try to resell it to you at 50× the price? I'm wary of that ever since reading about it.

      5 votes
      1. [2]
        krg
        Link Parent
        Right, I don't think going for a cheeky domain would be the best for business, but I do think having some kind of base name and searching as I described can be useful. And, I'm pretty sure Google...

        Right, I don't think going for a cheeky domain would be the best for business, but I do think having some kind of base name and searching as I described can be useful.

        And, I'm pretty sure Google doesn't engage in those scumbag practices when it comes to domain names.

        4 votes
        1. ThatFanficGuy
          Link Parent
          Not business: just serious. Yes, thank you. What I forgot to say is that I do think it's a good practice, and that I appreciate the advice.

          Not business: just serious.

          but I do think having some kind of base name and searching as I described can be useful.

          Yes, thank you. What I forgot to say is that I do think it's a good practice, and that I appreciate the advice.

          4 votes
  6. acdw
    Link
    Mine is (mostly) my initials, kind of xkcd style. Four random looking letters. It fits me, is generic enough that I feel I can post anything on there, and I can use it as my username too. But if...

    Mine is (mostly) my initials, kind of xkcd style. Four random looking letters. It fits me, is generic enough that I feel I can post anything on there, and I can use it as my username too. But if you're looking for a pronounceable brand, that might not work.

    4 votes
  7. Arshan
    Link
    Well, I have been in a similar search for a while. But, I have found online identity name that I like! It is PersonNonGrata. It is a hypothetical eggcorn of a latin phrase. I also took it because...

    Well, I have been in a similar search for a while. But, I have found online identity name that I like! It is PersonNonGrata. It is a hypothetical eggcorn of a latin phrase. I also took it because apparently no one else has used it as a username on most platforms. Its not perfect, I could see it coming off as kinda edgy, but it is good enough. I hope you can find a name that works for you.

    3 votes
  8. Uncharted
    Link
    I'm actually having precisely this problem myself. Cool new website ready to go, but no name and, up until now, no ideas. The other comments were somewhat helpful.

    I'm actually having precisely this problem myself. Cool new website ready to go, but no name and, up until now, no ideas.

    The other comments were somewhat helpful.

    3 votes
  9. [4]
    skybrian
    Link
    It sounds like you just want a fairly meaningless and yet somewhat memorable name, not directly associated with your real name. Would a pen name work? Whatever you pick, if you're not careful it...

    It sounds like you just want a fairly meaningless and yet somewhat memorable name, not directly associated with your real name. Would a pen name work?

    Whatever you pick, if you're not careful it could become associated with your real name. Is that important to you? If so, you need to pay attention to operational security and it will be hard to keep it up for years.

    (I use "skybrian" by default but it's easily associated with my real name and I'm okay with that.)

    2 votes
    1. [3]
      ThatFanficGuy
      Link Parent
      The opposite. Memorability is a nice quality to have, but what I need is something that carefully encapsulates a whole lot of stuff. If it ends up also being memorable, good. I mentioned hating...

      It sounds like you just want a fairly meaningless and yet somewhat memorable name

      The opposite. Memorability is a nice quality to have, but what I need is something that carefully encapsulates a whole lot of stuff. If it ends up also being memorable, good.

      I mentioned hating having to have a brand name exactly to avoid what you thought I needed. All I make is something I put my soul into.

      Operational security is of little concern. I don't want to be doxxed, but that's it. I'm never going to be at the stage of fame where people come up to me for an autograph on the street. The choice to avoid using a name is a creative one. Symbols have always fascinated me, and I want a lexical symbol for myself and the things I do.

      4 votes
      1. [2]
        mxuribe
        Link Parent
        This is fascinating. I think you've found your direction for your domain name search. Are there names for symbols that represent/capture the essence of collections, compendiums, etc.? 👍

        Symbols have always fascinated me, and I want a lexical symbol for myself and the things I do.

        This is fascinating. I think you've found your direction for your domain name search. Are there names for symbols that represent/capture the essence of collections, compendiums, etc.? 👍

        2 votes
        1. ThatFanficGuy
          Link Parent
          That's an excellent goddamn suggestion. Thank you. I now have a direction to look into.

          That's an excellent goddamn suggestion. Thank you. I now have a direction to look into.

          2 votes
  10. xstresedg
    Link
    I feel that. I'm in the same boat. Right now I'm using sk-game.dev as my websites domain but I don't intend to brand myself as SK (Saskatchewan) Game Dev, as I feel it's a conceited take on...

    I feel that. I'm in the same boat. Right now I'm using sk-game.dev as my websites domain but I don't intend to brand myself as SK (Saskatchewan) Game Dev, as I feel it's a conceited take on myself.

    I just cannot think of any good type of branding that fits me and my game endeavours.

    2 votes
  11. [4]
    udia
    Link
    One approach for domain name search is up minimize length. For example, my username was discovered as one of the few remaining .CA top level domains at four characters that have not been claimed....

    One approach for domain name search is up minimize length. For example, my username was discovered as one of the few remaining .CA top level domains at four characters that have not been claimed. Rather than committing to a brand and finding the domain to match it, maybe approach the problem in reverse?

    Aside, as of this post, t.ki is available (but expensive)

    2 votes
    1. [3]
      ThatFanficGuy
      Link Parent
      I think a shortname is a valid strategy for when your domain has already gained traction on its own, or as a matter of URL shortening. I was always more invested in a longname. Names have meaning...

      I think a shortname is a valid strategy for when your domain has already gained traction on its own, or as a matter of URL shortening. I was always more invested in a longname. Names have meaning – a lot of it, to me – and I want the domain to reflect that by using full words.

      XKCD is unique and recognizable, but it doesn't sound cool. I'm a sucker for cool names.

      1 vote
      1. [2]
        udia
        Link Parent
        I hear what you're saying. Long names allow you a greater freedom of expression. Someone who does not know your brand can read it and derive some meaning from it. That being said, I think XKCD...

        I hear what you're saying. Long names allow you a greater freedom of expression. Someone who does not know your brand can read it and derive some meaning from it.

        That being said, I think XKCD sounds pretty cool. I imagine before they became established, Uber, SoFi, JUUL, Brex (all >$2bil US valuation companies) weren't cool names.

        Short domain names are more valuable, with entire auction sites dedicated to this niche. They are easier to type and share. The majority of the top 50 Alexa ranked sites on the web are single English words or a moniker.

        My stance is that the name is less important than what the name represents. The name is made cool by what is done with it. Shorter domain names are preferable over long domain names.

        1 vote
        1. ThatFanficGuy
          Link Parent
          You're right: it's the contents that matter. I hope I'm gonna do well on that front. Still, I'm a sucker for a good name. The first time I heard about RPG traits called Electrochemistry and Half...

          You're right: it's the contents that matter. I hope I'm gonna do well on that front.

          Still, I'm a sucker for a good name. The first time I heard about RPG traits called Electrochemistry and Half Light in Disco Elysium, the game, I wanted to know all about them that second, 'cause they're rad on the surface. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

          And, see, Uber is still not a cool name. Neither is SoFi, or JUUL, or Brex. (Well, JUUL is alright cool.) For each of those names, it's their contents that matter. Apple isn't a cool name; the company is cool because they make premium hardware that people love (that, and the brand itself).

          I know I don't need a cool name to make good things. I just want one. That's the type of a flaw that leads me to be a terrible entrepreneur – following the heart when the brain says there are easier ways – but hell if I let go of that.

          1 vote
  12. [2]
    jcdl
    (edited )
    Link
    I've really struggled with this, and I have a big collection of domain names now that I don't do much with. I have a fairly unique name, so it's been easy to pick up short domain names. I go by...

    I've really struggled with this, and I have a big collection of domain names now that I don't do much with. I have a fairly unique name, so it's been easy to pick up short domain names.

    I go by jagger27 in most places, so naturally I picked up jagger27.com about 12 years ago. This was okay at the time, but I didn't use it for personal email, and I only hold onto it today for sentimental reasons. It's a bit ugly though.

    I decided I wanted to make it a little more chic, so I registered twoseven.ca and j27.ca. I use the first domain today for jagger@<domain> personal email. Buuuut I've grown tired of having to spell it out to people when speaking (they reasonably expect it to be 27.ca), and j27.ca has the same "ugliness" issue as jagger27.com.

    Then when .co became easier to register I bought jagger.co, which is great. Buuuuut that has an ugliness issue once again with jagger@jagger.co being kinda narcissistic or stilted, so I don't use it for email.

    That brings me to this year, when on a whim I decided I would start to move away from my "27" personal brand. In the spirit of all the coolest techbros online with their initials as their usernames (rms, pg, etc.) I decided to a quick WHOIS for mine, which landed me jcdl.net. I might still pick up the .ca, and the .com was taken. But I've always had a thing for .net.

    Here are some of my favourite domain names for inspiration beyond firstnamelastname.tld.

    • daringfireball.net
    • codinghorror.com
    • polychrome.net (I really wanted this one. Last time I asked the owner wanted $100,000 USD for it, I hate to know what he wants today)

    Those examples mostly go to show that a long domain name is not a big deal at all.

    Other random thoughts:

    I personally don't like domain hacks very much (like bit.ly, who.is, etc.) with one exception: cr.yp.to. For the most part they're a bit passé. Okay two exceptions, eev.ee is good too.

    Some new TLDs are really, really nice. Some of my favourites that don't feel too tacky and they might stir up some inspiration:

    • .dev
    • .xyz
    • .space
    • .tech
    • .blog

    When I'm truly at a loss for what to name something, sometimes I try namelix and pop in some keywords. The trick here is to pick some fun root word that means something to you and add context around it. Fiddle around with different root words and generation modes. Maybe you'll find something, but it's a bit of a crapshoot. I've had moderate success with this technique.

    2 votes
    1. ThatFanficGuy
      Link Parent
      I had the firebrand.works domain earlier because I thought it was clever. "His name is Firebrand, and he works". It's not that clever in retrospect, but it was fun pitching that as the "credits to...

      I had the firebrand.works domain earlier because I thought it was clever. "His name is Firebrand, and he works". It's not that clever in retrospect, but it was fun pitching that as the "credits to Firebrand" website to put on the websites I'd made.

      2 votes
  13. Wolf
    Link
    In the same line of thinking as the Magic&Wires example, I decided to focus on the creator rather than the materials for creation. Something like: ElectricSpawn (since everything created seems to...

    In the same line of thinking as the Magic&Wires example, I decided to focus on the creator rather than the materials for creation.

    Something like:
    ElectricSpawn (since everything created seems to be digital)
    ElectricWeave

    CarbonSpark (since you are a carbon-based life-form breathing life into these creations)
    CarbonSpawn
    CarbonCapsule
    CarbonPixels

    1 vote