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How Netflix got its name

Rent.com was too expensive at $40,000.

Book cover for "That Will Never Work" by Mark Randolph
In That Will Never Work, Mark Randolph explains how Netflix came up with its name.

Netflix co-founder Mark Randolph just published a memoir about the company titled That Will Never Work.

As with all startups, Randolph and his team had to come up with a name.

They started with a beta name—one that would work as a placeholder but that they all agreed would not be the final name. That name was Kibble, in part because Randolph already owned the domain name Kibble.com (he still owns it).

As it came time to launch, the team wrestled with which name to go with. Randolph writes:

Soon after we’d moved in the building, Christina and I had written two columns on the whiteboard. One was filled with words related to the internet. The other was filled with words related to movies. We’d decided that the best name for our company would combine two words: one related to movies, one related to the internet. The best name would combine both terms seamlessly, with a minimum of syllables and letters.

Picking a name is incredibly difficult. For one thing, you need something catchy, something that rolls off the tongue and is easy to remember. One- or two-syllable words are best…

…Too many syllables, too many letters, and you run the risk of people misspelling your website. Too few letters, and you risk them forgetting the name.

Some of the names they considered were TakeTwo, Luna, CinemaCenter and NowShowing.

Randolph really liked the name Rent.com, but he didn’t put in on the board for several reasons. One was that it would have cost $40,000 (yes, only $40,000 for Rent.com!) to buy the domain. If you think about it, it would have ended up being a horrible name. While the idea was that customers would rent DVDs, Netflix has changed dramatically in the past two decades. Rent.com wouldn’t make sense anymore.

Netflix might not be the perfect name, but they went with it. Randolph notes:

“It wasn’t perfect. It sounded a little porn-y. But it was the best we could do.”

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  1. Howdy88 says

    Back when I worked for Sprint E|Solutions (remember them?), one of our customers was rentmydvd.com. they were an Asian family that would manually ship DVDs to their customers. They had burstable speed collocated Sprintlink connection and were busted for spamming and caused Sprint IPs to get blacklisted. While this wouldn’t usually be a problem, since the IP was shared amongst other collocated customers it caused misdirected anger to Sprint.

    But after 2003, not sure what happened to their operation.

  2. Todd says

    I find it interesting that when they registered Netflix.com that they also registered Netflicks.com and forwarded it to the main site. In 1999 no one even knew what a brandable name was but they chose it over the generic Netflicks.com

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