Word identify has two meaning:
- Establish or indicate who or what (someone or something) is.
- Recognize or distinguish.
I chose the name Identicon with second meaning in mind to convey that Identicons’ intended applications are in helping users recognize or distinguish textual information units in context of many.
Textual Data Problem
Human eyes have evolved to recognize individual objects out of a group by noticing visual differences. Unfortunately, textual data are visually similar.
While many different typographic features and techniques have been invented since writing was invented, most of them are for free-form text. Additionally, list and table text layout lack the irregular features free-form text have, like line ends and paragraphs, to use as landmarks.
Icons do add the necessary visual differences to textual data. Only problem is that icons are typically designed by hand or, in case of avatars, photos or pictures have to uploaded.
Identicon = Generated Icon?
One might say Identicons are simply generated icons. The first implementation of Identicon used salted hash of IP address to generate 9-block colored icon for each blog commenter. Most popular use of Identicon today remains generated iconic avatars.
I think it’s a bit more. Certainly, generated part is required. But the icon part is unnecessarily restrictive unless colored circle or box can be called an icon.