Google and Other Major Companies that Changed Names Used to be Called Something Much Different

It’s not uncommon for big companies to rename the products they make. Think Apple selling Mac computers now instead of the Apple IIe, or Lincoln ditching its confusing model names and changing to real, proper names again. But it’s not every day a company switches names. Sometimes businesses change names because people hate them so much they feel like they have to. Other times, companies want to refresh their image, so they make a change. What’s in a name? For these companies that changed names, there’s plenty.

You’ve probably heard of all of these companies, but do you know their original names? We’ll discuss a company that simplified things with an obvious switch (No. 7) and a major corporation that we can’t imagine calling anything else (No. 10).

1. Instagram

Kevin Systrom changed Burbn to Instagram

Kevin Systrom was smart to change his company’s name from Burbn to Instagram. | Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Old name: Burbn

Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger suddenly quit in September 2018 after building their smartphone app into a behemoth company that Facebook acquired. But when the duo started, the app was called Burbn and photo sharing was just part of what it did. When they discovered the photo sharing was the most popular feature, they focused on that part of it, developed a new look, and changed the name to Instagram.

Next: This company trims its name down to two letters.

2. WW

Weight Watchers store location

Weight Watchers changed names to WW to reflect its overall lifestyle approach. | Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images

Old name: Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers connotes dieting and weight loss, but the company does so much more than that. It also promotes exercise, healthy eating, and positive lifestyle changes. So in September 2018, it became one of the recent companies that changed names as it switched to WW with the tagline “Wellness that Works.”

Next: The name change that makes a ton of sense.

3. Dunkin’

A Dunkin' Donuts coffee and doughnut.

You’ll still be able to buy doughnuts, but the stores will be called Dunkin’ starting in 2019. | New_Folder/iStock/Getty Images

Old name: Dunkin’ Donuts

Why put a label on things? That’s the thinking behind Dunkin’ Donuts trimming its name by 50% and simply being called Dunkin’ starting in 2019. Yes, the stores still sell doughnuts, but they offer other food, such as breakfast sandwiches. Plus, coffee and other drinks make up 60% of its sales. When you look at it that way, the name change makes a ton of sense.

Next: One letter makes a big difference.

4. WWE

Vince McMahon talks during the XFL Press Conference, 2000

Vince McMahon’s company is called World Wrestling Entertainment now. | Tom Hauck /Allsport

Old name: WWF

Switching one letter in the abbreviation was a subtle yet substantial difference when Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation transformed to World Wrestling Entertainment. With the new name, the company branched out and added a TV network, digital media, publishing, and XFL football, a misstep that completely failed at the time. A legal battle with the World Wildlife Fund over who got to use the letters WWF didn’t help matters, either. Even though the football league fell flat, there are plans to bring it back and have XFL teams in eight cities by 2020.

Next: A change for the better.

5. LG

LG changed names from Lucky and GoldStar, Ltd.

LG started out as Lucky and GoldStar, Ltd. | Roland Schlager/AFP/Getty Images

Old name: Lucky and GoldStar Co., Ltd.

These days, LG makes some of the best smartphones you can buy in addition to TVs and larger appliances. The Korean business debuted as Lucky and sold cosmetics and plastics, and it later started GoldStar, which made electronics. What was called Lucky and GoldStar transformed to LG in 1995, according to The Washington Post, and we’d say it’s a change for the better. The name rolls off the tongue, and it ties in more closely with the company’s “Life’s Good” slogan.

Next: We’ll drink to this change.

6. Pepsi

Pepsi cans

Brad’s Drink doesn’t have the same ring to it. | Mario Tama/Getty Images

Old name: Brad’s Drink

Coca-Cola has always been Coca-Cola, but what we call Pepsi today started out as Brad’s Drink. Caleb Bradham concocted the drink in 1893, but by 1898 he renamed it Pepsi-Cola. We’ll toast and drink to a name change that eventually gave us giant food and beverage corporation PepsiCo.

Next: There’s one reason this company made a slight change.

7. KFC

KFC sign

KFC is one of the biggest companies that changed names. | Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Old name: Kentucky Fried Chicken

It seems obvious that when Kentucky Fried Chicken rebranded it would switch to its initials, but we still say it’s a new name. The one reason it made a slight change is pretty clear. Fried food isn’t very good for you, and the word fried was right there smack dab in the middle of the name. The company switched to KFC to appear healthier, as well as to show it offers non-fried foods, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Next: The change made life a lot easier on everyone.

8. Yahoo

Yahoo Inc. Headquarters

All the early internet users should be thankful Yahoo changed its name. | iStock.com/jejim

Old name: Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web

A business doesn’t need a snappy name to become a billion-dollar enterprise, but it doesn’t hurt. Thankfully, Stanford students Jerry Yang and David Filo realized that fact early on. Mid-90s internet users had it a little bit easier since Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web was one of the companies that changed names as it became the easier-to-type Yahoo instead.

Next: The name change happened in less than a year.

9. Google

Google founders Larry Page (L) Sergey Brin talk with members of the media

It took Larry Page (left) Sergey Brin less than a year to realize they needed a better name. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Old name: BackRub

Google’s forte is analyzing link-back website data and ranking sites based on importance and relevance. Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded their company in 1996 and named it BackRub to emphasize the link-back aspect. Less than a year later, they switched the name to Google. Now, it is one of the most successful companies in the world, and it has made Brin and Page two of the richest Americans you’re going to find.

Next: We can’t imagine calling this business anything else.

10. Amazon

companies that changed names amazon website

Can you imagine getting a free trial of Relentless Prime instead of Amazon Prime? | Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

Old name: Relentless

Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world now, but it took him a while to settle on the name. He considered Awake, Bookmail, Browse, and Cadabra, but he registered and still owns the URL for Relentless.com. If you type relentless.com into your browser, it redirects you to Amazon’s website. Frankly, we can’t conceive of calling this business anything else. After all, Amazon Web Services has more of a ring to it than Relentless Web Services.

Next: A company’s extraordinary rise included a name change along the way.

11. Dell

Dell CEO

The extraordinary rise of Michael Dell’s company included a name change. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Old name: PC’s Limited

Michael Dell started PC’s Limited in his Texas dorm room in 1984, and the company had an extraordinary rise.

  • In 1986, the company built the fastest computer on the market.
  • By 1987, it opened an outpost in the United Kingdom.
  • The company went public in 1988, by which time it was named Dell.

These days, Michael Dell is one of the world’s 50 richest people, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, and the company is planning to go public again after being privately held.

Next: A drastic change for the better.

12. Nike

Nike To Lay Off 2 Percent Of Global Workforce Amid Drop In Sales

Before they settled on Nike, Dimension 6 was in the running for the company name. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Old name: Blue Ribbon Sports

Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight founded Blue Ribbon Sports to be a distributor for Japanese shoe maker Onitsuka Tiger. That was in 1964. It started making shoes seven years later, and it needed a new name. Bowerman and Knight settled on Nike over Dimension 6, and it’s one of the companies that changed names in a drastic way and for the better.

Next: The current hits the mark.

13. Target

target cart

Target has an iconic name now, but it wasn’t always that way. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Old name: Goodfellow’s Dry Goods

The way we look at it, Target is the perfect name for a store that hits the mark in so many ways. The store has a cult following, and there’s endless debate about what you should always buy or never buy at Target. It wouldn’t feel the same if we were debating what to purchase at Goodfellow’s Dry Goods or Dayton’s Dry Goods, the two names the company had in its infancy.

Next: The name change eventually gave us a great catchphrase.

14. EA Games

Electronic Arts (EA) is one of the companies that changed names in its history

The change to Electronics Arts gave us one of the best catchphrases around. | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Old name: Amazin’ Software

These days, we have the iconic catchphrase, “EA Sports. It’s in the game” and the legendary Madden curse, but none of that would have happened if it hadn’t been one of the companies that changed names. An Apple employee named Trip Hawkins founded the business in 1982 with the name Amazin’ Software. The name didn’t convey the artistic side of video game programming, so he switched it to Electronic Arts and the rest is history.

Next: One of the first big companies that changed names.

15. 7-Eleven

A sign hangs outside of a 7-Eleven store

The former regional Tote’m convenience store is now 7-Eleven with 60,000 stores worldwide. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Old name: Tote’m

The Tote’m convenience stores, founded by Joe C. Thompson and Jefferson Green, were so called because customers toted away their items. The name didn’t last long. The business that started in 1927 was one of the first companies that changed names when it transformed into 7-Eleven in 1946. The switch reflected the store’s new hours at the time: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week.

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