Mark Brewer interview

Typesafe name to be changed, open-source-style

Coman Hamilton
Name image via Shutterstock

Typesafe have decided to find a new name for themselves over the next two months, and with it change its image as “the Scala company”. In a first for the IT scene, the community is invited to help.

TypeSafe? Typeface? Type Safe? Even we at JAXenter will admit to having to regularly double-check the correct spelling of Typesafe. Given the one word, many capitals trend of bi-capitalising tech names (think MongoDB, ZeroTurnaround and MySQL), Typesafe’s lowercase ‘s’ has proven confusing to many.

“The name is frequently misspelled,” admits Typesafe CEO Mark Brewer in a blog post announcing plans to change the company name. “[A]nd while we are light-hearted about meeting invitations and company bios that read TypeSafe or Type Safe (at best), we’ve seen more than the occasional “Typeface” sent our way.”

But a somewhat confusing name is hardly enough of a cause for rebranding. As Brewer outlines, there are four reasons for a company to change its name: a merger or acquisition, a tarnished name, a change in strategy and a misleading name. The company has decided that the last two apply for Typesafe, and is enlisting the help of a branding agency to help several non-managerial employees come up with a new name.

Quoting Scala creator and Typesafe co-founder Martin Odersky, Brewer says “it made total sense why the company was called Typesafe. Developers—the users of our software—appreciated its meaning and the focus that it implied for the company: building and supporting the software that Scala developers relied on for its power, flexibility, and type safety.”

But today’s Typesafe name neglects to include the company’s reactive focus beyond the realm of Scala in its Akka, Play and Apache Spark technologies. However Typesafe has already ruled out a reactive emphasis in its name in a Twitter response (below), while also emphasising that Scala maintenance will not be cut. The CEO of the company formerly known as Typesafe told us about their renaming process and why an open-source approach is less risky than the traditional alternative.

JAXenter: An open approach to a company rename sounds slightly risky – how can Typesafe make sure an open-source renaming will give it the name it needs?

Mark Brewer: There was a time in the past when people thought the open source approach to business was risky too. We believe opening up our naming process is actually less risky because, by bringing the community along on the journey with us, getting feedback and ideas along the way, we can ensure we have a broad data set to use to make the best decision. Also, this is, in typical open source fashion, a meritocractic process, not a democratic one.

We aren’t just going to brainstorm a bunch of name ideas and then have a community vote. This is a deep, thoughtful effort is being led by a group of non-managerial individuals within Typesafe with passion about our future direction. We’ve enlisted the help of New Kind—a branding firm with deep roots in the open source movement—to help facilitate the process. We are looking forward to sharing our renaming journey with the community every challenging and messy step along the way.

Can you comment on what direction the new name will be aiming towards?

In July 2013, the company embarked on a grand experiment: to test whether it could ignite a market and movement that was bigger than itself: Reactive. We’ve done a tremendous job building excitement and momentum around this movement. Our current name, however, does not speak to our mission. Now, this doesn’t mean “Reactive” will necessarily be included in the name. Rather, it’s the excitement surrounding this new wave that we are trying to encapsulate and communicate in the renaming.

I really enjoyed this list [see right] of before-and-after names the team at New Kind shared with us. I thought your readers might enjoy it too.

Renaming is right up there with the most difficult things a young company can undertake. We know it’s going to be messy, at the same time, we’re fully embracing the process. Your readers can follow along on our blog.

Open sourcing the renaming process

In 2009, the SciFi Channel made the unfortunate decision to rebrand itself as SyFy. Not only did the new handle annoy most viewers, but the channel sadly learned too late that “syfy” was a common slang for syphilis. While there’s no reason to suspect Typesafe will accidentally rebrand itself as an STI, there is often no telling how successful a name will be until it is launched.

But as Brewer explains above, Typesafe is hoping to solve this problem with the old IT trick of Open Source. “As we considered how to best generate a new name, we felt that in order to stay true to open source principles, the project should be as open as possible” Brewer writes on the company blog. Over the next weeks, the company will announce its renaming strategy and explain how the community can collaborate.

One commenter has already called for the company to be renamed Awesome Sauce. Or would that be Awesomesauce? AwesomeSauce? Awesome Source?

Coman Hamilton
Coman was Editor of at S&S Media Group. He has a master's degree in cultural studies and has written and edited content for numerous news, tech and culture websites and magazines, as well as several ad agencies.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments