Microsoft on Wednesday said it would stop using the word "online" to describe its online versions of Office, instead referring to the online suite as "on the web," "in a browser," or maybe "for the web."
The branding change came from the same company that once called its single sign-on solution Microsoft Wallet, then Passport, then .Net Passport, then Microsoft Passport Network, then Windows Live ID, then more simply "Microsoft account."
Passport was resurrected for Windows 10 as the name for part of its two-factor authentication; the label was dumped a second time in a branding consolidation with Microsoft Hello.
"The official product name for what was previously referred to as 'Office Online' is now simply 'Office,'" Bill Doll, a senior product marketing manager, wrote in a post to a company blog. "We have also discontinued use of the 'Online' branding with each of the apps, so 'Word Online' is now 'Word,' 'Excel Online' is now 'Excel,' etc."
Doll said the change stems from the fact that because Office now has apps on multiple platforms, "It no longer makes sense to use any platform-specific sub-brands."
Even so, Microsoft will continue to refer to "platform-specific sub-brands," such as "Office for Mac" or "Office for Android."
Rather than tag the web version of, say, Word, as "Word Online" or Office overall as "Office Online," Microsoft may dub those as "Word for the web," "Office on the web," "Word on Office.com" or "Office in a browser," Doll said.
But then Doll metaphorically threw up his hands and just gave up. "We encourage people to use whichever terminology is most appropriate and provides the most clarity for a given context," he said.
And since "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," Microsoft decided that the new nope-no-online-here rules need not apply to its server-side products.
"It is important to note that this branding change only applies to the Office apps," Doll asserted. "There is no change to the branding for our 'Online' server products - specifically Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Project Online, and Office Online Server."
Commentators don't care for the change.
"This is just another stupid [Microsoft] marketing move, another in a long history of stupid marketing moves," said someone identified only as ron s.. "Thanks for nothing! This (dis)'improvement' just adds to the confusion."
"Seems to me that you've taken what was previous[ly] a very precise and unambiguous label and removed it," added Kevin Crossman, who labelled himself a Microsoft MVP, or Most Valued Professional. "Which no doubt will cause confusion. But, if we can use 'whichever terminology is most appropriate,' I'm going to use the wording that provides the most clarity: Office Online."
Office - or Office Online, Office for the web, Office in a browser, and so on and so forth - is available at Office.com and can be used free of charge for non-commercial purposes. Office 365 business subscriptions come with rights to use Office online (see what we did there?) for work-related tasks.