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Is The World Running Out of Domain Extensions?

September 21, 2017

Small Business

Web Design

Site Launch


Remember when AIM became really popular, and it gradually became harder and harder to find any AIM username not already taken? You’d sit there adding numbers and symbols and misspelling words (H0ckYplayR4567) just to find one that worked.

The good thing about that “problem” is, AIM fell out of style. But I highly doubt websites are “on the way out” in the same way–and yet, we’ve come across a very similar problem here.

Most really good .com’s nowadays are either already in-use or for sale at auctions for exuberant amounts of money. If you’ve run into this problem when trying to register a url, you’re not alone: it took tech-king Apple 16 years to acquire apple.co.uk (previously owned by Apple Illustrations); UberCab gave Universal Music Group 2% of the company in exchange for Uber.com; and in less-victorious news, Nissan Motors is still fighting David Nissan (of Nissan Computer’s, of course…) for the rights to Nissan.com in what has become a 20-year battle, including a request to bring it before the Supreme Court. David still isn’t budging. Amazingly, he doesn’t have to: domain url legal rights typically operate on a first-come-first-serve basis.

But all hope is not lost! To get around this .com drought, many new startups and businesses alike are seeing the benefit of sacrificing the .com for a different extension, enabling them to keep their desired domain name.

One option is to use .io, instead. Originally, .io was a country code for British Indian Ocean Territory, but, allegedly, some computer enthusiasts came up with an alternative meaning: input/output. What started as a joke quickly became trendy and fashionable within the tech community and is now popular amongst startups as well as established businesses. .Io is seen as credible and even sometimes preferable within the tech community, as you’ve shown web users you’re “in” with the tech community if your domain ends like this.

When I tried to find “hinge.com,” I was immediately warned with an all-red background and a big exclamation point: “The site ahead contains malware. Attackers… might attempt to install dangerous programs on your Mac that steal or delete your information.” (I wonder how much traffic they get to their site?)

Hinge.co, however, produces a smiley-faced girl lying on a bed with the caption: “The Relationship App.” And thus, we’ve found another alternative. Similarly to .io, .co was originally a country code for Columbia… but, once restrictions were lifted, became, as described here, “The .com without the m.”

Part of the reason for .co’s popularity is that “co” stands for company and community, so it is visually satisfying for a company wanting to look legit. But primarily, .co is popular because it lets innovators, entrepreneurs, and startups keep the names they wanted in the first place.

Having the correct domain name, rather than holding onto the .com extension, can be critical to the success of your brand. Your domain name should be catchy, shareable, and easily recognizable in relation to your site. Buffer learned this lesson the hard way when they tried “bfffr.com,” and then “bufferapp.com,” instead of “buffer.com,” which was already taken by SealGuard Heat Sealing Buffers. After a few years, Buffer realized its business was suffering from the inaccurate domain name: customers were heading to buffer.com with customer-service complaints like credit card issues, which was damaging to Buffer’s customer-service credibility.

Other options for extensions are Geographical TLD’s like .nyc or .tokyo, Community TLD’s like .catholic or .aarp, and Brand TLD’s like .mcdonalds or .unicef.

And then, a final option: descriptive and industry-specific domain extensions, such as .kids, .blog, .auto, .catering, .photo, .wedding. The use of these descriptive extensions is debatable. Some think that ending your domain in the appropriate extension is an improvement for web users who can glance at the domain address and see, via extension, exactly what the company offers.

But then others, like Paul Graham, believe, “If you have a U.S. startup called X and you don’t have x.com, you should probably change your name… the problem with not having the .com of your name is that it signals weakness.”

Unfortunately, ensuring a good domain name AND a .com is becoming increasingly difficult and pricey; so, I think, hats off to the companies that recognize their unique brand name is worth protecting, even at the cost of whatever (.com, .net, .org, .io, .co, .blog) comes after it.