Ads for doubleTwist, a developer of software that allows synchronizing of media content across multiple platforms, began appearing this week in New York and San Francisco:
A BART car? Photo via doubleTwist co-founder Jon Lech Johansen.
My own double take when I read the June headlines had less to do with Apple getting "pwned" (as TechCrunch put it) and more to do with the doubleTwist name. Back in the First Internet Era, nearly a decade ago, DoubleTwist—with a capital D—was the name of a bioinformatics company that seemed poised to decipher the code of "junk DNA." Like the current doubleTwist, the earlier company was based in the Bay Area— in fact, a flag bearing its double-helix logo fluttered for a while on the serpentine-stone façade of an Art Deco landmark in downtown Oakland, the I. Magnin building.*
What happened? DoubleTwist, which had started its corporate existence as Pangea, filed for an IPO in September 2000 and for trademark protection for the DoubleTwist name in January 2001. Things quickly unraveled. According to Digital Code of Life, a 2004 book about bioinformatics by Glyn Moody, the company's "plans to 'dot-com' itself and to create a Web 'portal' ... were clear warning signals that the company did not have an alternative business plan other than hoping that Net mania would somehow carry it along." In March 2002, the journal Nature reported DoubleTwist's demise.
The media company doubleTwist bought www.doubletwist.com in September 2004, perhaps for a premium price from the previous owners. (Someone owns doubletwist.net, too, but I couldn't track that record in Whois.) The new doubleTwist filed for trademark protection of its name in September 2007.
DoubleTwist was an excellent name for a genomics company; it conjured the double helix and its mysteries without sounding arcane. (In fact, I used to use it as an example of a suggestive—in other words, not undesirably descriptive—name in presentations to naming clients, who invariably loved it.) As the name of a company that allows you to "sync, play, and send" to various media devices, it's acceptable but not a perfect 10: I can't see how "double" or "twist" are operative here.** My guess: the domain was available, it sounded cool, and the company founders jumped on it.
Whatever the story, I have to concede that this is one of the cleverer recent examples of name recycling.
* Founded in 1876, I. Magnin was once one of the glories of California retail; I still mourn its untimely 1994 death. But that's another story.
** On reflection, maybe "double" could have something to do with "sync" or "back up." But that interpretation requires a bit of, um, twisting.