How to name a grid

Are you launching a new grid? I bet you’re looking for some combination of “virtual,” “paradise,” “life,” “world,” and “avatar” that haven’t been used yet.


If you use a grid name that reminds people of other OpenSim grids then you will have triple the branding challenge you would have otherwise.

First, you’ll have to teach people that your “Virtual Lost Life Paradise Island” is not the same as “Lost Paradise,” is not the same as “Virtual Life,” is not the same as “Island Oasis” and is not the same as “Lost World.”

Since all those other grids have been around longer, if you try to promote an event on your grid, folks may easily misread it as a more familiar name, and assume that stuff is happening on the other, better-known grids.

Second, a generic name might make people think that you’re talking about virtual worlds in general, not your grid in particular. For example, if you name your grid “Virtual World” — and yes, there’s a “Virtual Worlds Grid” and “A Virtual World” and “Open Virtual World” and there used to be a “Virtual World Sim Grid” and a “What Virtual World” and a “Virtual World City” — then trying to tell someone where you want to meet them could be an Abbot and Costello routine.

“Meet me in A Virtual World.”

“What virtual world?”

“No, that’s another land entirely.”

“Do you mean Otherland?”

“Otherland is closed. A Virtual World is still open.”

“So you want to meet on Open Virtual World?”

“No, on A Virtual World. That’s a real world.”

“RealWorld is closed.”

“That’s a different world.”

“That’s a soap opera!”

“Okay, let’s start over. The name of the grid is A Virtual World.”

“What virtual world?”

So here are some tips for naming your grid in a way that won’t be confused with every other grid out there.

1. Stay away from any word in this list


Here’s the same list in graphical format:

Word Cloud Grid Names

Of the 946 grids I’ve got listed in my database right now, both current and former, some variation of the word “virtual” appears 66 times.  Some variation of the word “world” appears 121 times. Some variation of the word “life” appears 37 times.

2. Start with a story

When people ask you “why did you decide to start a grid,” do you have a story that you tell them, or that you plan to tell them? Write up the story for an “about us” section of our website — then look for pivotal moments, evocative words or phrases, anything that jumps out at you.

If your story is something like “I just felt like it” then reach further into your past for the story, or look ahead into the future.

For example, if I were to start my own social world, I’d name it Buratino, after a Russian cartoon I saw as a little kid that first made me wish that I could enter an animated world. It’s a Soviet rip-off of Pinocchio, but, unlike the original, Buratino never turns into a real boy — he gets to stay a fun-loving puppet forever.

3. Start with the things you love

There’s nothing wrong with naming your grid after your child, pet, childhood street, your mom, your favorite foods, your favorite plants, your favorite animals, your favorite vacation spots, or yourself.

There’s a reason why so many restaurants are named after people — or after mom. It humanizes a place, helps customers feel more connected to it.

Given a choice between, say, “Metaverse World” and “Joe’s World” I’d go to Joe’s first. It sounds more approachable.

4. Start with adjectives

What do you want your grid to be? Fun? Social? Profitable?

Write down a list of adjectives then focus on one at a time and write down the first things you think of.

What do you think of when you think of the word “fun”? Puppies? Roller coasters? Pin ball machines?

5. Start with people, books, songs, and movies

Who are the people you most admire? Write down their names.

If they can do double-duty, even better. So, if you name your grid “Kim’s Grid” because of your admiration for the North Korean dictator, you can tell people it’s named after the book by Rudyard Kipling — or let people think that it’s named after Kim Kardashian.

6. Check your list against available domain names

You should now have a long list of names and phrases. Run them through any domain name checker, such as Lean Domain Search, or just use your favorite domain name registrar.

If a dot-com version isn’t available for your name, cross it off. Only check the most common spelling — if you’re checking Joe’s, look at, and, not,, or

Your customers aren’t likely to remember anything other than dot-com, and they’re certainly not going to remember any hyphenations.

Your list should now be a lot more manageable.

7. Google each name on your list

Now turn to Google.

A search for “Joe’s Grid” returns half a million results — but none of them are particularly relevant. If you register and name your grid “Joe’s Grid” you’re very likely to be at the top of these results.

“Joe’s World,” however, was a TV series and a book series and has more than eight million results — you’re not going to be first on the list there.

“Joe’s Place” also has more than eight million results, and is heavily dominated by restaurants and bars. You’ll have a hard time getting to the first place with these listings.

So, of these three, “Joe’s Grid” is your best bet.

8. Check for similar grid names

Look through the Active Grids List and see if you can spot any similarities.

If you’re planning to open Joe’s Grid, for example, make sure that there isn’t already a John’s Grid, Joan’s Grid or Zho’s Grid out there.

If your grid name has an unusual spelling it in, this might also be a good time to Google the more common variant.

Say, for example, if you were just starting the InWorldz Grid. Searching for “inworlds grid” leads to fewer than 1,500 results — and most of them are actually for InWorldz, anyway. So even if your customers spell it the ordinary way, they’ll still find you.

But say your grid’s name is “Electrix Grid.” Nothing much with that name — you think you’d be good, right? But if people type in “electric grid” instead, they get more than 18 million results.

9. Run your potential names past friends

Your list should now be even smaller. Now you can do a focus group test. Ask your friends, family members, employees, or potential customers what they think of the names.

Would they want to live on a grid with this name? Work there? Spend money there?

Which name is easier to say? Easier to spell? What do the names remind them of?

You should now be able to rank your names and choose the winning name. But if a lot depends on the decision, go on to the next step.

10. A/B test your names

Some names are just going to do better with a target audience than others. If your target audience is vampires, then Bella’s Grid or Vampire Grid is going to better than Pizza Grid or Puppy Grid.

But how would Bella’s Grid stack up against Vampire Grid? Or, say, Jacob’s Grid versus Edward’s Grid?

If you’re planning for commercial success, then even a ten percent difference in how people react could mean the different between profitability and losing money.

You can test by sending a message to half the people in your target group telling them about your new grid and asking them to sign up for a newsletter, or to register early for a free residential parcel, or to sign up for a group where you’ll be announcing the grand opening. Then, to the other half of the people, send the same message — but with the other grid name.

Which one do people respond to more?

If you’re willing to spend money, you can also run A/B testing with advertisements. For example, you can offer a first-months special for region renters on your grid, and run two ads, each with a different name, and make sure that each ad gets the same number of impressions.

If you’re short of cash, AdSense often runs deals for $100 in free advertising, and we offer free ads on Hyperica.

Related Posts'

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China. Follow me on Twitter @MariaKorolov.

30 Responses

  1.' Geir Nøklebye says:

    As always good recommendations, but I am not totally with you on

    > Your customers aren’t likely to remember anything other than dot-com

    If you are running a german or french regional grid, having a .de or .fr domain may make much more sense than having a .com domain. For a non-profit .org may make more sense than a .com, and for the tech oriented .net may also make sense and is commonly searched.

    There are also new and interesting domains out there like .guru that could work as a primary domain, and .info is a good secondary domain to have for a grid.

    The XMIR name is a bit of a riddle in that it is my first name spelled in a special character set that is no longer in active use. I’ll leave it to you all to figure out which. :-O

    • You’re right — local grids in countries other than the U.S. should be able to use national top-level domains without any problems.

      In the U.S., however, if you give anyone a domain name, they’ll keep trying to put a .com extension on it.

      Plus, you might run into trademark issues with whoever has the dot-com name registered.

      So if you’re choosing between a domain name where you have to use .biz or .net or .guru or .website or .us because the .com is taken, or a more unusual name where you can have the .com, I recommend always going with the dot com.

      For example, is available. But if you take it, and start promoting your Pepsi grid, PepsiCo might have a few things to say about that. Plus, when people search for your Pepsi grid, they’ll keep coming up with the Pepsi cola brand.

    •' Padi Phillips says:

      Runes Geir?

      •' Geir Nøklebye says:

        Yes. Actually it is not an entirely authentic representation as “ei” was originally one character, but was later expanded to “MI” in the more modern futhark.

  2.' Nathan Adored says:

    Well, another thing you’ve not touched on that could be a factor in how to choose, or how NOT to choose, a name for your world… Make sure you’re not naming it something that puts forth a meaning or impression you *don’t* want to project.

    As an example, there is an ordinary word that has been commonly used for a long time as a pseudonym for kid-avs. Some while back, someone created a new world, one that had hypergrid turned on so that literally anyone could pop in at any time, and the first half of the name of the grid was… that word described above. A lot of kid-avs saw the name, assumed the place was created BY and FOR kid-avs, and so started popping over there in numbers to check this new place out… only to discover that this new world was overwhelmingly HOSTILE TO kid-avs, and had signs all over the place saying kid-avs were absolutely forbidden. And they were also treated very, very badly when they showed up. oO

    Why on God’s green Earth would someone place the word LITTLE in the name of their world if they *did* *not* *want* *LITTLES* showing up?!? **FACEDESKS**

    To be honest, I literally didn’t make the connection in the name until someone else actually pointed it out a couple months back, and then suddenly I was *really* disturbed by the whole thing… but clearly a lot of other kid-avs DID genuinely think the world was kid-av central, when it wasn’t, back when they originally opened.

    I seriously have no idea if the name was deliberately *chosen* to trick kid-avs, while having plausible deniability, so as to generate a bunch of Drama and make sparks fly, so as to generate lots and *lots* of free publicity…. or if they genuinely DID NOT know “littles” == “child-avatars,” and that a name like Littlefield would bring child-avatars in droves! oO

    They’d have been far better off if they’d (re)named their grid Bigfield.

    •' Walter Balazic says:

      Before you grouse on someone’s grid naming convention, it’s named after a town in England called Littlefield which happens to have a special connection to one of our administrators. I guess if your a pedophile and attribute everything that has the name “Little” in it as some child related thing, then you might have a bigger problem than figuring out how to name a grid and should get it checked out. There are plenty of things in the world with the name Little in front of it that have nothing to do with children.

      • Reminds me of that commercial about a bike rally — where a skinny guy on a bike is there in the middle of a bunch of motorcycles.

        But Walter, Nathan *does* have a point. If you’re picking a name, that’s one thing you should check for — whether its a code word for something other than what you expect. It doesn’t mean you can’t use that name, but that you’ll have a little extra branding work to do to make sure that people know that, say, by “bike” you mean motorcycles and not ten-speeds.

        I personally love the name Littlefield and have long held it up as an example of a unique, evocative name — never once thinking it might have a different meaning.

        I’m also reminded of the Austin Powers movie “The Spy Who Shagged Me.” In the US, “shag” is harmless — it’s like “do it.” It has no emotional strength. I hear that in Britain it’s a dirty word, like “bloody.” Here, it just sounds quaint. 🙂

        Which reminds me — quick, someone grab!

        •' Walter Balazic says:

          If you find the word Little to be some kind of code, then you have a really active imagination Maria. “Little” is only a code if you make it a code. Type the word Little into Google and let me know where you see anything about the word Little being some kind of code. Anything can be a code if you want to perpetrate the hoax that it is. And we aren’t called “Littles” field btw, if “Littles” is some kind of code (and I’d be surprised if even that were true), we aren’t using the name “Littles”. We didn’t call our grid “Littles” Grid. I could see you having a point if we called the grid Bikers Grid, then complained that people misconstrued it as being a place for people interested in biking. Little is an adjective Maria in case you weren’t aware, and the 2 of the words from our grid together are “Small Field” literally translated if need be – like a field that has a small land mass if I need to be absolutely word for word about it for those with limited mental facilities. If you get “hey this is a good place for kids” out of “Small Field” as a translation because that’s how your mind operates, then what do you get out of someone who might have Washington Grid “oh this must be a good place to wash something”, because they use the word Wash in the name?.

          • I specifically said that I did NOT pick anything up from the word “Littlefield.” To me, personally, “Little” is not code for anything.

            And I agree with you — if I was starting a grid, I wouldn’t have known how to even check that it was, other than Googling.

            So what can you do in this case?

            If Nathan was the only one who read anything into the name, then I guess I’d set him straight, then move on. Like you said, individual people can read anything into anything.

            If 99% of the people showing up were because of the other meaning, I’d change my name.

            If it was 20%, I’d probably stick with the name, but put up signs, after figuring out a way to word things so that it didn’t creep people out. Like, instead of putting up a giant sign saying “no age play” with a big x through a picture of a child avatar — which would creep out everyone else, I might put up a sign with something like, “this is an adult grid. Only adults, and adult avatars, are allowed here.”

            This actually came up for me recently, when an adult in a child avie came to a business meeting. I didn’t notice until the end — lots of people have short avatars for a variety of reasons. When it became clear that he was actually role playing a kid, it was almost the end of the meeting and I let it go. But I’m still creeped out. It feels like someone pulled me into their RP without my permission.

            I feel the same way when I’m having a business conversation with people about business or technology and suddenly they start making out with someone else (it’s happened!) or their virtual family tags along for the interview.

            Basically, there are certain things that, by common courtesy, are best avoided in business and professional settings, unless you really can’t avoid it. These include religion, politics, and sexuality. And the less well you know a person, the more you stay away from those topics.

            Hmmm…. is there a Miss Manners-style guide for virtual worlds behavior?

          •' Walter Balazic says:

            I assure you we are by no means inundated with any “children” or “child avatars” making any attempt to join the grid. He has a vivid imagination, and maybe in his circles he’s seen that because that’s where he chooses to be and he chooses to be involved in child related and/or child avatar related activities, but as far as it being confusing to anyone but him, I’d be surprised if it was confusing to any normal person. This is simply an excuse for him to start another of his “anti-child/anti-child avatar” campaigns like he did on OSGrid at the time and he’s trying to hijack this thread with that intent. I won’t post any further about it here as that’s not what the intent of this thread is. I just wanted to point out to those who might be afraid of using an adjective in their grid name to not be intimidated by trolls like Nathan. You don’t have to scour the internet for every single reference to some fringe group out there when picking out a grid name, if you did you’d end up with a grid named GRID, and I guess to an engineer or a math student, the name GRID has some relevance also. Based on Nathan’s mindset, I guess I should be surprised that we don’t have more people trying to gain access to our grid thinking having the name GRID in our name affiliates us with something such as: The Grid dance group, or The Grid arcade game, or The Grid TV Series, or GRID computers even.

          •' Guest says:

            I read the article and the comments, I am proud to say that I did everything right without even knowing that I was.
            The Karmalot Kingdom was a small free 510 piece of land in Second Life and growing into a grid was just a natural path to take. Of course being a narcissist naming the Karmalot Grid was just a given.

        •' Geir Nøklebye says:

          I am not going to go into the discussion about Littlefield being a code or not as I would think the name would be totally innocent.

          However, if your grid are going to cater to an international audience, it might be worthwhile doing some research of what the name/words means in the language(s) of your target market.

          Honda some years ago launched a car called Fitta, and when introducing the car in the Scandinavian market it did not go so well as the word fitta in those countries means cunt.

          •' Walter Balazic says:

            I agree but Fitta isn’t a common adjective. I agree looking to make sure a word that might be unusual like your example Fitta is a good idea, it would be surprising to find a common word in any language such as “fast, slow, small, large” having any connection with anything that might cause a problem, but something like that might be.

          •' Geir Nøklebye says:

            The thing to think about is; does the word in itself mean something completely different in your target markets. The next thing is; do the words you choose translate, and what do they translate to? – which does not have to be a sexually laden term, but it could completely change the meaning your name/brand. This happens because people automatically will translate words they know from a foreign language into their own.

            Let me use Apple as an example. The original name of the company was Apple Computer but everyone, including themselves, referred to the company as only Apple. In Germany it is translated to Apfel and in my area to Eple which simply means an apple. So you ruin the brand building from the start. What you then will see is competitors referring to the translated name when they want to put the company down or turn the attention away from it. This is of course easiest done with common words like the ones Maria listed. – Which is another good reason to avoid them.

            The third thing is to think about the assocication the name brings up in a person who sees it. IMO SecondLife is a rather unfortunate brand, simply because it sounds like “oh, so you don’t have a first life so you had to get a second life”.

            Branding is difficult. Once you find a brand you are satisfied fills all your criteria, then comes the challenge of getting the domain name for it. It could cost you a fortune if it is even available, but you might be lucky too. :-))

          •' lmpierce says:

            In general terms I see your point(s). Specifically, however, I would say that “Second Life” has been a brilliant name. Yes, there has been cynical derision of Second Life by playing on the name itself, but the core issue has been the idea of being in a virtual world rather than the real world, which has garnered varying degrees of criticism. For those who like the idea of a virtual experience, having a ‘second’ life started off as a huge draw and the name fit the experience perfectly, and positively. I would say that if the name is tarnished with the core demographic that values virtual experiences, it is probably more due to spoilage at the hands of Linden Lab policies than a questionable choice of brand name.

            Another bold example of how a name can imply something negative and positive is the franchise “Fatburger”. When I first saw this, I was stunned. With so much emphasis on health in the schools, in the press, and in the politics of health in modern U.S. culture, this kind of brand name seems strikingly awful. Furthermore, the word ‘fat’ is highly charged in U.S. culture, to say the least. It’s amazing a food chain would continue to use that word in association with their core theme. And yet, for those who prefer thick juice hamburgers irrespective of health concerns, this branding has worked really well.

            This overall issue reminds me of the adage about not being able to please all of the people all of the time. In our globally connected world, I would say that very little is possible if the standard is to be effective and attractive to all people in all places.

          •' Padi Phillips says:

            There was a short lived cigarette brand launched in the UK during the 1980s called Death. A certain percentage of the profits were donated to cancer research – and of course, every packet bore a government health warning. I’m guessing that Fatburger remains successful, but Death cigarettes diasppeared from the shops within a very short time – after all, who needed the reminder of a cigarette called Death packed in a black package bearing the picture of a skull and crossbones? Though maybe the brand might have appealed to the Goth community?

          •' Padi Phillips says:

            I think that, sadly, with SecondLife that sometimes it is really the case that people don’t have a first life, (which is a bit of a tragic truth) but that is also the case with Facebook and other forms of social media. However, I think there are far more unfortunate associations in many peoples minds about SecondLife, which is even more unfortunate for us when trying to explain what OpenSimulator is to people largely unversed about virtual worlds when we have to explain that OpenSim grids are a bit like SecondLife, but without so much sex or social activity.

          • That’s been the case with every single new media that came out… we have video game addicts, TV addicts, telephone addicts. Before then, I’m sure we had radio addics. We still have the word “bookworm” though it’s not as pejorative as it used to be — and “Don Quixote” is all about a guy who can’t separate books from reality. I’m sure if we go back 10,000 years, we’d see parents standing around saying, “All he does is sit around and look at cave paintings, instead of being out there hunting with Trog and Klod.”

          •' Minethere says:

            there used to be “playing outside” addicts, also-)

        •' Padi Phillips says:

          It’s a bit more dirty than the very mild ‘bloody’ Maria, though perhaps somewhat milder than the F word, which has the same meaning. However, it’s all relative, and indeed the Austin Powers movies do play very much on linguistic wordplay and the potential misinterpretations between the two ‘dialects’ of English, even if Austin Powers’ portrayal of an English person is perhaps somewhat quaint, and anacrhonistic. Austin Powers not only successfuly parodies James Bond and upper class English twits, but also the stereotyped way in which Americans have portrayed English people, and though I do find that particular portrayal quite excruciating, it is undoubtedly funny – which I have to admit is rare for US comedy. (The only US comedy show that has ever made me laugh is ‘3rd Rock from the Sun’ – with all other US comedy shows, I’m a bit like the audience, and would have to be told when to laugh.)

  3.' Orion Fhang says:

    If I may chime in – can we please stay away from naming things “grid”? To me the word grid has always been a technical term that describes the back end architecture of a virtual world. To those outside of the OpenSim / SL realm naming something as “grid” could be somewhat confusing. Then again mind you, these days companies in general seem to be following a trend of choosing nonsensical names for themselves anyway – I mean come on, “Skype” and “ooVoo” for instance?

    •' Geir Nøklebye says:

      I think perhaps having grid as part of the name (not necessarily the domain name) is a good thing as is signifies it is a bigger entity (grid) rather than a standalone. Also for use in the context of hypergrid it is useful.

  4.' Orion Fhang says:

    I’d imagine it also has a lot to do with the company / grid’s logo too… For instance Littlefield’s logo centers around a key – signifying undertones of its bondage roots. I mean yeah, if their logo centered around something more child like – say a teddy bear then maybe Nathan’s assumption would have held true… Although I guess Kitely is sort of an exception since their logo is actually a Kite. 😛

  5.' Seth Nygard says:

    For Refuge Grid I did make the conscious choice to use the word “grid” in the actual name. Since the term refuge is so common and fits so many different purposes I wanted something that helped identify what I was building. The name, along with several others, had been discussed with several friends and everyone felt it worked very well for what was intended.

    I agree that there are many words that may not fit well for most gird names, and some that perhaps should be avoided completely. However like any such rules of thumb, they should not be considered to be absolutes. There will always be circumstances where people may chose to use a world, or combinations, for specific purposes. Even if I can’t agree with the use I can’t fault someone’s naming choices, especially since I would generally lack the necessary insight into their own choices to put everything in the proper context.

    Since it has already been mentioned elsewhere in the comments, I also like the name Littlefield Grid. IMHO it fits very well and I have never looked at it for any reason other than a good name for a grid. It is also an example of a name that when abbreviated (LFG I see often used in conversation) it is easily recognized.

    I think the important message here is to make sure to put thought into names and not simply go with the first thing that comes to mind. Give consideration to how it may be interpreted by others, but in the end go with what you are comfortable with.

    • For me, the main issue with the name “Refuge Grid” isn’t the grid part, but the Refuge — it is unique and memorable, but it also falls into the category of second life/escape from reality/paradise/retreat/haven/sanctuary — and there are a LOT of grids with names in this category.

      Now, everyone remembers names differently. Some people go by sounds, some go by the look of the word, but some people go by meaning.

      So I’m thinking of someone saying, “It’s at the tip of my tongue…. its about … escaping? Fleeing? Being saved from something?”

      And Sanctuary and Haven would come up first, because they’re the more established grids.

      It’s not a particularly major problem, would only increase the required marketing effort by a small margin. But if you were starting up a commercial grid, and your profit margin was already thin, this might be something to be prepared for.

      • But now that I re-read Orion’s comment — I’m with them on the “grid” thing, too. I’m currently writing an article on OpenSim for a mainstream publication and I’m having to remind myself to use the word “world” instead of “grid” everywhere.

        People know what a virtual world is. People do not know what a grid is. So if you’re going after the general public — and I hope that all commercial grids are doing that, and bringing new people in! — then “world” is a better descriptor than “grid.”

        •' Seth Nygard says:

          In the particular case of “Refuge Grid” the naming was intentional and not intended to foster large growth. We are a hypergrid enabled, semi-closed grid which serves as a safe haven and place to work for its members. As refugees from osgrid when it went down in August and failed to return within a reasonable time, many of us had projects that we did not want to leave on the back burner indefinitely. Membership in the grid is by referral or invitation only, where Refuge Grid is going to be their primary home and not simply another account in a long list of grids.

          While I know our choices and perhaps even the name limits the grid’s growth, that too is intentional. By doing this it allows us to better manage the costs and efforts involved in keeping a grid going. We are able to better concentrate on our core objectives. These were all conscious decisions made when the grid was formed and which had an impact on the name chosen.

          I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with, or fully understand the choices we made. They are however choices which were made in keeping with the intention of the grid.

          Given the fact that we are home to several DJ’s, for a brief time we considered naming the grid and registering the domain name “”. And while that could have been a catchy name it did not fit with the grid’s objectives. We also wanted a .com domain name since that is what people often expect to see.

          •' Geir Nøklebye says:

            I completely understand your motivation and considerations as they are much the same as for my own XMIR grid which also went HG after the OSG crash. – The only difference being that I have not taken any residents yet simply because my platform is more experimental where not everything works on my combination of software (OS+DB+OpenSim). I have not felt comfortable offering others permanent residency in an environment that has been somewhat flaky in the fringes (core is solid enough).

            I am nearing the point where that will change, but I still want to grant controlled memberships for people who share the same goals and perhaps technical base. With Hypergrid access I feel there is not a need to create a large grid, but rather prefer horizontal scaling and opportunity for people to visit and enjoy, while at the same time creating a solid base to work off of.

            In that context grid naming has as much to do with personal preference as it has to do with marketing considerations. Perhaps the grid itself is not the main product or brand, but rather the incubator.