Naming products is hard. We wrote the world's first version controlled SQL
database, which we called Dolt. We named it that way to
pay homage to how Linus Torvalds says he named git:
Torvalds sarcastically quipped about the name git (which means "unpleasant
person" in British English slang): "I'm an egotistical bastard, and I name all
my projects after myself. First 'Linux', now 'git'."
We wanted a word meaning "idiot", starting with D for Data, short enough to type
on the command line, and not taken in the standard command line lexicon. So,
dolt. We had to explain this often enough that we made a FAQ
But while a lot of people like the name once they understand the reference (or
even before), it also inspires a surprising amount of criticism. Here's some
typical noise on Reddit:
The name has some other issues too:
- In sans serif fonts it looks like "Do It"
- Hard for some non-English-speakers to say
- "DoltHub" sounds a lot like "adulthub", which is, well let's just say we
aren't going to link to it from the blog
We're almost five years into the name, so it's unlikely we'll actually change
it. But just for fun, let's talk about some alternate product names we think are
pretty good. If people feel really strongly about any of them we might entertain
Dolt looks like MySQL from the outside, to clients. But underneath it's a custom
storage and query engine we built to make diffs and merges fast. Or in other
words, "MySQL (business) in the front, Git (party) in the back": MulletDB.
That's our founder and CEO as a younger man, and I think you'll agree he's
rocking a pretty profound mullet here. So we have a built-in mascot for this
name, which is a big marketing plus.
Name ranking: B+
It's easy to pronounce, and it's a decent pun on git's rebase capabilities. Plus
people love to rebase things, and they love to get into fights about whether
it's better to rebase or merge.
Cons: We haven't actually implemented a full rebase command yet (it's on our
roadmap). And besides being very generic sounding (wow you named your database
product "database"), this name is all business, no party.
Name ranking: C
Dolt is like Git and MySQL had a baby. It's like a multi-player version of
MySQL, where you can give a copy to your friend and merge any changes they make
back into your copy with no fuss. So what do you call a MySQL you can share?
OurSQL of course.
A bunch of people have had this same idea for a joke in the 29 years since MySQL
Not going to lie, this name is pretty great. It makes me kind of jealous that we
didn't think of it when we were first talking names. The only real issue is that
because it's such an obvious riff on MySQL, a bunch of other people have named
things OurSQL over the decades, like this python
library (last updated 2010) and this
podcast (last updated 2017). There's even a github
project by this name that promises to put
MySQL on the blockchain, which, the less we speak of this the better.
We don't like being sued, and we don't like having to buy domain names other
people are squatting. But that's the only thing keeping this name out of the S
Name ranking: A-
When we realized that Dolt had some problems in some font faces, we briefly
considered renaming it another D word in keeping with the original naming
convention. Around this same time, one of our founders whipped up a Vim plugin
for editing Dolt tables that he called Dim. What about that for a name?
In principle this name has all the positives of Dolt but with fewer
downsides. So why don't I like it? It just feels a little bit flat to me, like
it's missing soul, I don't know. Also, the
dim tool has been lost to the sands
of time, never to be seen again.
Name ranking: D+
In line with the "sharing" theme of OurSQL, we thought it would be pretty
memorable to name the database after the father of sharing (at gunpoint if
necessary), good old Karl Marx: MarxDB.
There are some pretty obvious downsides to this, such as naming a product after
the father of an ideology that has killed tens of millions of people. On the
other hand, it's pretty clear that most of the under-30 crowd have no notion of
the horrors of communism, so Marx and socialism are cool again (real communism
has never been attempted right guys?). Plus there are a bunch of great slogans
that write themselves, e.g. "Rise up and seize the schemas of production!"
And we aren't alone in thinking that Dolt has socialist sharing vibes, as we
discovered when we got some clicks from this discussion on the socialist
which is a real thing.
We sincerely hope these fine revolutionaries are the very last with their backs
against the wall when the time comes.
Name ranking: C+
Other great names in the open source database space
Briefly, I want to call out a few other open source database players that we
think have very cool names and / or branding. Hats off to these products.
Gun is a distributed database with a provocative name and a
great logo. The static image doesn't do the logo justice: click the link to see
how futuristic and cool the logo looks with a little animation.
Name ranking: A
Neon is a Postgres product that uses a copy-on write
storage engine to separate compute from storage, and make it possible to branch
the data. (They can't diff or merge data though, that's a Dolt-only feature). We
like what they did with the postgres elephant mascot and bright colors. And the
name is first-rate.
Name ranking: B
PlanetScale is a MySQL offering with automatic
sharding to make it scale with no effort. The name is great (if a little basic),
clearly stating their value proposition. The branding is a little plain for our
tastes, but they probably just don't want to scare off enterprise customers with
too many colors.
Name ranking: B+
Naming is important, but there are probably more important things for a tech
product. We like that our name gets people talking, but our customers aren't
here for the name, they're here for Dolt's unique version control features. We
probably aren't going to change the name. But if we did, what should we choose?
Have questions about Dolt, or want to argue about the name? Join us on
Discord to talk to our engineering team and meet
other Dolt users.