Safari icon (medium)

Here’s a nice little nugget. Though it’s now taken for granted, the Safari browser was almost named “Freedom”. Yes, “Freedom”, of all the monikers. Steve Jobs apparently considered a bunch of silly names for Apple’s browser that included “Freedom”, “Alexander” and “iBrowse” before settling with “Safari”.

He also spent some time trying “Freedom” because he liked the sound of it and how it signified Apple’s freedom from Microsoft and Internet Explorer. One programmer who worked on the Safari project shares an anecdote describing how he persuaded Jobs to drop the “Freedom” name as it sounded like a “feminine hygiene product”

Former Apple engineer Don Melton worked alongside Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs on the WebKit project that would power the company’s own browser.

When the time came to pick a name for the software, “Steve just started saying some names out loud” to see how they felt in his mouth and to his ears.

Then “Freedom” came up and Steve “spent some time trying that one out on all of us”.

According to Don’s blog post, he managed to convince Jobs to move “Freedom” off the candidate list:

All I could think about was, “Please don’t let us name the browser after a feminine hygiene product!” But cooler heads and filthier minds prevailed. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one in the room with that concern. 

The team then considered a bunch of other names that all sounded “awful” to Don. Plus, the candidate names “seemed to get worse the closer we got to shipping”.

For over a year, the internal name for the browser application was “Alexander.” Not only had we gotten very used to calling it that, the string “Alexander” was all over the code and buried in its resources.

Then someone floated the “iBrowse” name, which became part of “an elaborate joke that appeared on our cryptic team shirt”.

When someone on the team would really annoy me about needing to know the final name, I would often say something like, “I’ve just heard from Scott Forstall and it’s ‘iBrowse’ for sure.” Which really meant, “Don’t bug me with that shit right now.” This is how to endear yourself to your engineers.

Steve eventually chose a name for Apple’s browser – Safari.

Don thought it didn’t suck (“slowly it was growing on me”, he writes).

By the time I reached my office, I liked the name. Really liked it. I was committed. I could imagine seeing “Safari” in the Mac OS X dock. I had to tell the team right away and, if necessary, convince them that they liked it too. Fortunately, and to their credit, they didn’t need much convincing.

The rest, as they say, is history.

The sheer popularity of the iPhone, which was the first smartphone to marry the desktop web browsing experience to multitouch technology, helped turn Safari into a kind of household name.

The entire post offers additional anecdotes and is worth a read.

As for the name, I wouldn’t mind “iBrowse” – it’s in line with Apple’s i-naming scheme.

I can totally see myself browsing the web using an Apple-made web browser dubbed iBrowse.

You?