Last month, in a surprise move, Google became Alphabet. Now, this is the Internet’s biggest brand and the largest Internet-focused company. You would assume that their homepage would be Alphabet.com, right? Wrong. Google, or Alphabet, doesn’t think the .com is essential any more and set its global domain at abc.xyz.
A while back, Internet regulator ICANN opened new extensions – beyond the familiar .Com, .Net, .Org and so on. These extensions, called top-level domains (TLD), will allow Internet users to get more personalized and meaningful names, while not being restricted by whatever is available as a .Com.
However, there are still many who believe the .Com address is invaluable and these other TLDs aren’t a good idea.
The Defenders of .Com
Paul Graham, investor and co-founder of Y Combinator, kicked off a debate on the Internet last month when he wrote on his blog, “If you have a US startup called X and you don’t have x.com, you should probably change your name.”
Graham says that having the .Com lends credibility and strength to your venture. Unless the founder has a major reputation already, any other TLD suggests you aren’t a big player.
In fact, over the years, the .Com domain name has attracted huge investments. Insurance.com sold for $35.6 million in 2010, Internet.com for $18 million in 2009, and the list of the top 35 domain sales has nothing less than $2.5 million.
Compared to that, ProductHunt founder Ryan Hoover got off easy by purchasing the .com for $3,000.
“From my perspective, .com has always felt more legitimate and there was a concern that some people would assume we had producthunt.com,” Hoover tells MakeUseOf.
SEO analytics firm SearchMetrics also says to go with a .com. “It’s a rookie mistake to think that only links and keywords matter with SEO — the truth is that Google has an affinity for brands,” the firm advises.
Analyzing 100,000 domains and 100 million links, they found that 75% of all links go back to a .Com address. The “brand” credibility that a .Com provides makes it more memorable and people are programmed to think your brand’s website ends with a .Com.
Does Everyone Really Need a .Com?
So why did Google not acquire Alphabet.com? Why did it go with .xyz? In a funny twist, Wired recalls how Daniel Negari, the founder of the .xyz domain, once told them, “We end the alphabet in ‘xyz’ and we should end domain names the same way.” It’s almost like Google was listening.
The new TLDs released by ICANN and their adoption by the Internet’s biggest company lends credibility to the notion of moving away from the .Com. The base logic makes a lot of sense too.
Alex Kehr, who launched the FindKatrina missing persons database, explains on his blog, “With domain investors demanding such high prices for their .COM domains, while helping keep availability low, they are effectively pushing consumers to consider alternative TLDs. This is great for companies that own New TLDs because they have the opportunity to differentiate themselves from .COM by highlighting their affordability, availability, and memorability.”
Negari believes .xyz can become the new .Com because it is just as memorable, and as long as companies like Google back it, it will continue to grow.
“Over the next 30 years, .xyz will reign supreme as not only the #1 new domain extension, but eventually as the NUMBER 1 domain in the world. Period,” he wrote.
How TLDs Can Change the Internet
In the full list of new TLD names, you will find various options which make you wonder why that’s needed at all.
For example, New York City got a .nyc domain, making it easier for small businesses in the city to distinguish themselves. Say there was a Frederico’s Pizza in New York and a Frederico’s Pizza in Los Angeles – freredicospizza.nyc tells you immediately that you are getting the New York City outlet. It’s this simplification that ICANN was after.
Dr. Stephen Wolfram, the creator of Wolfram Alpha, supports the notion of a .Data TLD which lets companies put out publicly accessible data. It would be yet another way that Wolfram Alpha makes lives easier.
Then there’s the .Sucks TLD, which could be a nightmare for companies that want to avoid bad publicity. Imagine, instead of generic sites to complain about bad service, you can expose all of a company’s bad practices on a single domain which everyone knows they should go to. It’s unlikely to happen, but that’s the potential power of TLDs.
Where .Com Rules, Where .Com Doesn’t Matter
The shift to mobile is also making the demand for a .Com less important, according to Hoover.
“Companies building a business primarily for the web, particularly for a broad mainstream audience, will benefit most from owning the .com,” he told MakeUseOf. “Those focused entirely on mobile, have less to gain by owning that domain as mobile apps are discovered largely through word of mouth, search, and App Store/Google Play discovery.”
Hoover also candidly admits that frequent visitors to Product Hunt search for it on Google as opposed to typing the full URL, producthunt.com, in their browser.
Still, for most businesses, the familiarity of a .Com also speaks to a huge portion of the Internet which isn’t that tech-savvy. Domain blog I Want My Name says that even though more people are understanding the Internet and working in tech, a substantial number still view the Internet as a dangerous place with malicious elements — and every privacy concern or data theft story only fans these flames. When someone is already viewing the Internet with suspicion, a .Com will ease their mind against a .xyz or anything else.
That said, if you’re considering moving away from .Com, SEO expert Russ Jones gave MakeUseOf some simple advice: “It draws attention, but you have to own the ridicule.”
Do You Think .Com Is Not Important?
If you come across a website address that isn’t .com, how do you see it? Are you more likely to click it or not? And how much does .Com matter when sites like Twitter are shortening links while sharing anyway? Give us your take on this .Com mess in the comments below!