Developers for the world's biggest companies often use codenames to identify their in-progress projects. The main purpose is to keep the project under wraps until it is ready to be revealed to the public. Some of the codenames appear to be random while others bring awareness to important issues. Codenames have also been used to take a light hearted stab at the competition. Here are some of the most interesting codenames that have been used ranging from state parks to infamous gangsters.
TUTORIAL: Investing 101
1. Mozilla & Nature
The company behind the web browser Firefox looks to nature when they choose names for its projects. Places like Bon Echo Provincial Park in Southern Ontario, Shiretoko National Park in Japan, and Phoenix Park in Dublin, Ireland have all been used to name different versions of Firefox. Mozilla took a personal interest in Namoroka Park after it was used as the code name for Firefox 3.6. In 2010, the company worked with the Madagascar Fauna Group to help raise money to protect lemur habitats in the park. In 2009, Mozilla Japan paired with the Shiretoko Nature Foundation to launch a marketing campaign to teach people about Shiretoko National Park after Mozilla used the park's name as code for a version of Firefox.
Current code names for mobile application projects were inspired by animals and weather. They include an email client called Thunderbird, a task management system called Lightning, a calendar application called Sunbird and an all-in-one application called SeaMonkey.
2. Microsoft & Travel
The developers at Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT) seem to have wanderlust as they use potential vacation destinations as the codenames for their projects. Some examples include Chicago as the code name for Windows 95, Memphis for Windows 98 and Whistler, a popular ski resort town in British Columbia, Canada, for Windows XP. (For related reading, see Wall Street History: Microsoft Buys Apple.)
3. Apple & Cats
The codenames used by Apple (Nasdaq:AAPL) for its Mac products have ranged from musical references like Harmony, Tempo and Allegro to big cats like Jaguar, Tiger and Panther. In the early days of the company, the project engineers would use their daughters' names as codes – for example, the Lisa computer shared a name with Steve Jobs's daughter (although officially, Apple has said it comes from an acronym: Local Integrated Software Architecture). They playfully poked fun at Microsoft's Window 95 (codenamed Chicago) by naming their competing product, the Mac OS 7.5, to be named Capone after the infamous mob boss who ruled the city before his death in 1947. (For related reading, see The Apple Ecosystem.)
4. Google & Food
A fanaticism with food must be a requirement for the developers at Google (Nasdaq:GOOG). The company's chow related product codenames are sure to make you hungry. Taco Town was the codename for Google Buzz; the developers got that idea from a Saturday Night Live skit. Dessert is on the menu for its line of Android products with codenames like Cupcake (Android 1.5), Donut (Android 1.6) and Éclair (Android 2.0/2.1). (For related reading, see 5 Surprising Companies Google Owns.)
5. Adobe & Sci-Fi
The creative staff at Adobe (Nasdaq:ADBE) goes to the movies when they come up with the top secret names for Photoshop. They paid homage to a 1983 science fiction film called "Taking Tiger Mountain" for Photoshop 3's code name (Tiger Mountain). The Red Pill, a concept from "The Matrix" that represents truth, served as code name for Photoshop CS3.
6. Fedora & Past Projects
The developers of this free operating system depend on their world-wide online community to come up with code names for its open source technology. They solicit names through their wiki page. Then, the Fedora Design Team puts the names up against a strict list of naming guidelines. The main rule is that the name of a current project must in some way relate to the project that came before it. For example, Fedora 9 was nicknamed Sulphur, a city in the United States. Fedora 10's codename was Cambridge, which is both a U.S. city and a ship in the U.S. Navy. Consequently, Fedora 11 was named Leonidas, a ship in the U.S. Navy.
The Bottom Line
The use of unusual, humorous and telling code names for new products is a time-honored tradition for developers. It is a clever way to keep exciting new products out of the public eye, but it is also an opportunity for a company to have some fun and set themselves apart. (For related reading, see Corporate Partnerships That Went Sour.)