I Just Learned The Name Of The Spinning Loading Icon, And I Am Screaming

<span class="copyright">Grace Maina via Getty Images</span>
Grace Maina via Getty Images

Naming things is hard.

You need a name that really penetrates the psyche of people so that it sticks. You need one that isn’t flaccid, that has some real spunk to it. One that’s descriptive and snappy. One that immediately erects an image in your mind’s eye of what somebody is talking about.

All of this is to say, the spinning-loading wheel that appears on computers is unbelievably called a ‘throbber’.

According to the PCMag encyclopaedia, a throbber is: “An animated icon that notifies the user that an operation is taking place in the background, such as when an application is loading or a Web page is downloading.

“Typically a spinning ball, logo or bar, throbbers are often animated GIF or AVI files.”

One developer on X, formerly known as Twitter, explained that when he worked at Mozilla, everyone hated the name and instead opted to call it a ‘spinner’.

He also later added: “this was also in the era when “chrome” meant “the browser’s user interface” (contrasting “content”) instead of “browser made by google”.

Throbbers do effectively impact our perception of time

They say if you have a throbber for too long, you need to call in an expert.

Anyway, sorry, there is actually science behind this. A group of Japanese students published a paper about how differing throbber speeds can impact our perception of time.

They said: “We investigated how the components of throbbers (e.g., presented durations, rotational velocities, and size) affected users’ perception of waiting time,

“As a result, we observed that the participants felt that throbbers with a slower rotational velocity had a shorter duration regardless of size when the presented duration was rather short, like 5 seconds.”

I’m probably going to stick to calling it a ‘spinny-thing’ so that my loved ones don’t think I’m a casual pervert, to be honest.