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Born Again: GodTube Becomes Tangle

By Laurel Sutton

April 3, 2009

Yeah, I know the title was a cheap joke, but what the heck.

I knew that GodTube existed, but just the other day I found out they’d changed the name to Tangle. It was originally launched in 2007 a video sharing site, and it set the record as the fastest growing Web site in the U.S. during its first month of operation. It was obviously a reskinned version of YouTube and catered to a Christian audience, featuring sermons, comedy, theological debates, as well as music videos. Over time they added a Christian news service and Godcaster, which allowed any church in the world to stream its services for free.

The site grew rapidly and attracted up to 2.7 million users a month. And then at the end of last year (2008), they announced expansion and forthcoming name change. In February 2009 they announced the new positioning:

Tangle.com has expanded to become the go-to Web site for the family-friendly community to safely interact online through a full social network.

My first reaction was to cock my head to the side like my friend’s dog Jack, when he’s thinking the dog equivalent of “Huh?” So I did a little more research to find out why they heck they thought this was a good idea.

From the Dallas Morning News:

“The old name ‘GodTube’ was a little polarizing. We wanted a name that was more encompassing,” said Jason Illian, CEO. “We don’t shy away from our faith-based community, but we wanted to expand that.”…

But GodTube, like many new Internet businesses, remained in the red. And the obvious imitation of YouTube made some evangelical Christians wince.

“It’s one thing to rip off the product, but to rip off the name itself was a little disappointing to a lot of people,” said Scott McClellan, editor of Dallas-based Collide magazine, which covers media and church life….

He describes a six-month process of picking a new name, working through 10,000 possibilities with the help of focus groups.

“Tangle.com” – suggested early by Illian’s brother Ben, interactive media manager for the site – prevailed because it fit the social networking focus.

“You can not only get tangled up in relationships, but you can get tangled up in all the tools, whether they’re blogs or video or photos or ‘tickertape’ [a line of newsy text that runs across the site’s main page],” said Jason Illian.

The site also has a new, light green color scheme, and Illian promised that the next months will see the rollout of various innovations for helping individuals and groups connect.

Tangle.com retains “Christian underpinnings,” Illian said, but projects no specific theology. Rather, it’s meant to be a site that advertisers and users of various faiths (or none) can feel comfortable with, because objectionable images and text are screened out.

You can see Jason Illian talk about some of this in the video he made to announce the name change (which is hosted at Tangle, naturally). What he does say in the video – but which isn’t in the newspaper article – is that “Christians need to be tangled up in their faith”.

I don’t know about you, but I kind of think there’s a conflict between “no specific theology” and “Christians need to be tangled up in their faith”. Well, at least it’s better than the old GodTube terms of service, which prohibited any content “contrary to the evangelization of Jesus Christ and His teachings, or constitutes blasphemy, or is otherwise offensive to our online Christian community”.

I get what Illian is saying about the word “tangle” as a way to express “intertwining” or “drawing everything together”, but aren’t tangles usually bad things? Snarls, knots, jams, snares? A tangle is usually something you want to get out of, not in to. And then there’s the meaning of “mess with” or “provoke” – also negative, and kind of threatening too (do you want to tangle with god?).

There are so many more appropriate metaphors for the kind of involvement that Illian wants to promote; I’d love to see some of the 9,999 rejected names, because I’m sure there were at least 5 of them better than Tangle. This is a classic example of inward-looking marketing: these guys had a metaphor and they were bound to make it work, dammit (should that be “darn it”?), even though no one else understands what they’re trying to say with the brand. I browsed around the intertubes and nobody, not even loyal GodTube users, likes the name Tangle or the idea of “tangling” faith and other aspects of life and social networking. Note to Jason Illian: stop using your employees and your three best friends as focus groups.

While I’m sure they’ll make the brand work, and maybe even turn a profit – they’ve been running in the red since they started up – Tangle has unfortunately saddled itself with a name that’s got an uphill struggle from the moment of launch. Bravo for getting the exact .com domain – but then, aside from Johnson & Johnson, makers of No More Tangles, who would want it?

Name Grade: C

UPDATE:

Nov. 26, 2010

They have seen the light! Tangle.com has SWITCHED BACK TO GODTUBE.COM

 

 

 

Grade:
C
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