Dear tech industry: Stop renaming stuff all the time. Just. Stop. It.

Google has renamed Google Apps to G Suite. Yeah. Explain that to your users. In this not-really-a-rant rant, David Gewirtz explains how so many product name changes can be a complete and total pain for customers, IT folk, and even purchasing agents.

frustrated-computer-business.jpg

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Pop quiz, Hotshot. Is Sierra 10.10, 10.11, or 10.12? Is it Mac OS or OS X or macOS? What's Yosemite and how does that relate to Mountain Lion? Why doesn't iOS have place names, or animal names, or sea creature names?

What's the difference between Azure and Microsoft Cloud?

What the heck is the difference between OneDrive, SkyDrive, Windows Live SkyDrive, and Windows Live Folders? If you answered "there is no difference," you'd be right. They're different names for the same thing.

Why is iMessage called iMessage, when the apps on iOS and MacOS are called Messages?

Why can't Amazon's Cloud Drive stay named Cloud Drive? Now it's Amazon Drive. That's okay because Microsoft Office Web Apps became Office Online. Why the heck not, right?

Don't even get me started on Google. We had Google Talk and then Google Voice and then Hangouts. Now there's Google Allo? Allo? Can you hear me now? Seriously?

So now, where there was Google for Work and Google Apps, Enterprise, we now have Google Cloud. Even though pretty much everything Google was cloud. Okay, fine.

No. Not fine. Not fine at all.

Because Google Drive has Google's apps. Google Drive is how you access Sheets and Docs and Slides. Google Docs was once two separate applications, Writely and Spreadsheets. Then there was Google Apps which was different from Drive and different from Google Apps for Work and different from Google Apps for Business (which were sort of the same thing).

What? The. Frak!

Now, forget all that. Scratch Google Apps in all its forms from your confused little brain. Google Apps is now G Suite. Seriously. Suites are frickn' back.

G Suite is the new name of Google Apps. Except Google Cloud is the new name for Google for Work (which is Google Apps, but for more people) and Google Apps, Enterprise, which had a comma in its name.

Okay. Okay. Deep breath. Get off my lawn!

No. wait. This isn't a get off my lawn moment. This isn't just whining on the part of a tech pundit who doesn't want to remember new names anymore. I got this. I read 50 tech news articles every morning. I can keep track of this because it's my job, and we have an editorial guide here at ZDNet. But regular users don't have the time for this crap.

Renaming core products has serious repercussions beyond merely my desire to rant.

First and foremost, renaming products confuses users. It was hard enough trying to explain that all their files were going to be stored in something called the cloud. Once they got used to that idea, the names of things started to change.

Where is their stuff? How do they access their productivity applications?

On top of that are all the purchasing, bidding, and procurement challenges, which once used to pay for Google Apps or something like it, and now have to buy G Suite. Do you have any idea how many IT professionals will need to scramble to rename everything, update contracts, and otherwise hold back their justifiable desire for profanity until they reach the safe space of their next therapy session?

Marketing information, tutorials, books, even the stuff people look for on Google all generate confusion when the names change. Corporate portals have different names from what the product is named now. Do you take the Google Apps course on Lynda.com, or wait until they scramble to rename it G Drive (even though the actual videos won't change for a few months)?

I get it. I used to be a product marketing guy. Products and services change. Sometimes the old name doesn't reflect all that the new service can do. Sometimes the name you use ticks off another company, so you have to change it. Sometimes there's a desire to consolidate or create names that align with trends across the industry.

Sometimes, products have been around so long that what they were a decade ago is radically different from what they are today, not only in function, but even in business model.

Sometimes, it seems like there's a good business reason to change a product's name. But here's the thing: for every good business reason to change the name, there are millions of customers you will confuse.

That's the bottom line in this discussion. The customers, the purchasing agents, the IT folks, the training people, the publishers, the writers. All of these people will fall somewhere on the range from inconvenienced to baffled to enraged because you wanted to spruce up your product categories.

I'm not saying never change your name. But if you must, please make it make sense. Name changes ideally should be a very rare practice, not something you do each year because it's the only way you can get your various departments to agree on anything. Please stop changing the names of things just to get attention, or to have an excuse for another press release.

Remember that this isn't an industry populated by just a bunch of geeks anymore. This is now a mainstream industry. Every time you rename a major product, it has a major impact. Imagine if the engineers at Ford suddenly decided to switch the brake pedal and the gas pedals around. It would cause serious problems. People might die.

People won't die because Google has renamed their product G Suite. But the level of confusion and hassle is going to be felt all across the world.

If I can leave you with any one thought, it's this: don't rename your products unless it's a life or death situation. If you do, do it only once. Do not rename your products every year or so because it makes you feel good to design a new logo.

You have responsibilities now. Real people use your stuff. So cut it out.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All