How Alexa got its name

I always assumed that the name for Amazon’s smart voice assistant, Alexa, was some sort of nod to the (female) name Alexandra. But I was wrong.


The creator of Alexa, Brewster Kahle, revealed how he came up with that name, in an interview with Kara Swisher for the Decode Recode podcast, which you can listen to, or read, here.


Kahle said that he had a long-standing dream of creating a product which people could turn to, to access information stored anywhere. He started working on this idea, in the 1980s, inspired by the library of Alexandria (Egypt), which was built circa 300 BC to provide universal access to knowledge. The library contained thousands and thousands of works (somewhere between 40,000 and 400,000 scrolls), and throughout its existence, attracted some of the most famous ancient thinkers.

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So, Kahle named his project ‘Alexa’, after the Library of Alexandria, because it was supposed to be a modern take on that famous institution.


Alexa went on to be acquired by Amazon, in 1999, and its purpose has evolved. But Kahle continued to pursue this dream, and created the Internet Archive, which has been creating digital archives of the Internet for the past 20 years.


What did you learn, recently?


3 thoughts on “How Alexa got its name

  1. I learned how to make concrete. Tougher than I thought it would (the task and the concrete). Before that I learned how to turn massive planks of oak into attractive dining furniture. Much more interesting than concrete.


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