How the Safari Browser Almost Ended Up Being Called “Alexander”

“Steve just started saying some names out loud,” says former Apple employee

By on December 21st, 2012 09:43 GMT

Ex Apple programmer Don Melton reveals in a fresh post on his personal blog that Apple almost ended up calling its web browser “Alexander,” then “Freedom.” Another name candidate was “iBrowse.”

Melton recalls a meeting called by Steve Jobs where Apple’s engineering team was deciding on the name for the company’s web browser, which hadn’t shipped yet at the time.

“As I remember, Steve just started saying some names out loud — I suppose trying them out to see how they felt in his mouth and to his ears. Which is not as odd as it seemed then — it’s a good technique now that I think about it,” the now-retired developer writes.

He continues, “I don’t recall all the names, but one that stands out is ‘Freedom.’ Steve spent some time trying that one out on all of us. He may have liked it because it invoked positive imagery of people being set free,” explains Melton.

The engineering team also felt that “Freedom” also made a good pun regarding the situation with Microsoft and Internet Explorer at the time.

“And, just as possible and positive, it spoke to our own freedom from Microsoft and Internet Explorer, the company and browser we depended on at the time,” writes Melton.

The name “Alexander” then came up and Apple clung on to this one for so long that the engineering team actually included all the necessary placeholders throughout the code. It was basically a done deal.

Then, “iBrowse” came along.

“Someone early on, I don’t even remember if it was one of my team members, referred to the product as ‘iBrowse.’ That stuck as a snarky alternate name we would use at times. It was never in the actual code, but it became part of an elaborate joke that appeared on our cryptic team shirt,” Melton adds.

Finally, Steve Jobs made his pick. It isn’t clear who suggested the name Safari, and Melton wasn’t even in the meeting when the name got pitched. But he does his best to recall his initial impression.

“… eventually Steve chose a name for our browser […] Safari.”

“I honestly didn’t know what to think. My mind was a blank because I just didn’t expect it. The name seemed to come out of nowhere. It sounded more foreign at that moment than its actual origin.”

Thinking about it some more, he decided it wasn't that bad.

“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,” Melton writes.

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