I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Naming Overcast

People keep asking whether Overcast is the original name I wanted, or the alternative I picked to avoid a potential trademark conflict, a process I had tweeted about a few months ago.

It’s the original one I wanted.

The naming process might be interesting to other people, though, so here’s what else I came up with and why I decided not to use any of them.

I brainstormed many potential names in a giant text file over a couple of weeks, enlisting help from friends, Invent-a-Word, Wordoid, and lists of English prefixes and prepositions. Even if I knew a name was bad or unusable immediately, I still wrote it down in case it could later inspire a usable variation.

Instacast was taken, of course,1 but I wouldn’t have used it anyway. A business of mine that has nothing to do with Instapaper shouldn’t have a name that suggests otherwise, and the “insta-” prefix is so crowded today that I don’t think any new products should be named that anymore.

I was looking to satisfy as many of these as possible:

Naming a podcast app is tricky. First, I went through words ending or containing “cast”. Here were the top contenders:

Since the app has a server component, I explored more cloud-related names (which is what originally led me to Overcast):

Since I didn’t have a lot of good options, I took a different route: trying to evoke qualities of podcasts or the experience of being a podcast listener. But it was hard to find words that didn’t also evoke loneliness and weren’t already taken.

I tried references to dialogue and commentary:

I then explored terrestrial radio, audio hardware, and mastering:

I didn’t love any of these. Absolutely none. I showed lists to a few friends, and they all agreed: Overcast was better.

None of the other names made me excited to work on the app or announce the name in public. “Here’s my new app, Mediocrity!”

So I decided to take the hard road to get the right name, and arranged with the other trademark’s owner to use Overcast legally.

I love Overcast. It’s great on so many levels, and it’s practical, too: simple, memorable, easy to spell, easy to pronounce, relates to podcasting easily by ending in “-cast”, and not too crowded in commerce or Google despite being an English word.

The owner of @overcast on Twitter wasn’t interested in selling, and I couldn’t get it on Tumblr, Pinterest, or Facebook. So I registered @OvercastFM on Twitter,, Tumblr, and Pinterest, and I also took @overcast on just in case, but I’m not going to use it unless I get the matching name everywhere else in the future — consistency between services is more important than having the best available name on just one or two of them.

I couldn’t get the .com — its squatter wants $100,000,000 for it. That’s right, a hundred million dollars. I tried to get him to come down a bit, and he said he’d take $95 million. I offered him $1,000, which quickly ended negotiations.

I decided instead to register the .fm for $70, and I don’t think it will ever really matter that I don’t own the .com.

  1. Last week, when Instacast’s iOS 7 update was announced, I had to get a new icon made very quickly. But it was for the best — I like the new one better. ↩︎

  2. A presence on Facebook and Pinterest really isn’t my style, and it’s going to take me a while to figure out how to use them (now I understand why a business might hire someone to use social networks for them). Here’s why I’m trying it↩︎