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Has Dot Com Lost Its "Must Have" Status to Facebook and Local?

It wasn’t all that long ago when acquiring a .com domain was considered essential to any successful business.

But times have changed.

I’m not suggesting that .com is going away. There are more than 96 million .com domains registered, which makes .com far and away the most popular top-level domain (TLD). But I am suggesting that .com is facing competition from a host of alternative domains, outlined below:

The rise of ccTLDs

ccTLD registrations have grown 10 percent year over year — with more than 78 million ccTLDs registered so far. And I’ve come across two  articles that suggest that country codes are more desirable than .com addresses.

Consider South Africa. According to South Africa’s registrar, more than 80% of individuals and businesses prefer using .za to .com. More than half of the one million domains registered in South Africa use the .za domain, compared to just 90,000 registered as .com domains.

And there is Sweden. According to Sweden’s registrar, 88% of Swedish companies choose .se addresses vs. 32% that choose .com.

Clearly, both registrars have a vested interest in promoting ccTLDs, since they profit from them. But I believe there is a larger trend at work as well — that of companies seeking to appear more local than global. “Local” is more than a buzzword these days — it’s a point of pride in many markets.

And there are also a small but growing number of companies leveraging ccTLDs as part of their brand names, such as bit.ly and Notify.me. In some cases the ccTLDs are used to support brevity in URLs, but other times they’re used to support a creative brand name. I’ve  collected a list of these “creative country codes” here,

The rise of Facebook

Social networking and community platforms are giving companies reason to completely rethink how they engage users.

Steve Rubel wrote in Forbes about companies that had forgone advertising URLs and instead promoting their Facebook pages.  He writes:

Some companies are de-emphasizing spaces they own, like their web site, in all of their ads. Instead, they’re pushing people towards spaces they rent where people are spending time – e.g. their Twitter, YouTube Facebook hubs.
Case in point: UniBall. During the Winter Olympic games I was surprised to see the pen manufacturer use its TV ads to point people to its Facebook page. There UniBall is giving away 10,000 pens. Nowhere in its ads does Uniball promote its own web site. It’s all about Facebook. Clever.

Why go to the trouble of creating a new web site with a new domain and then advertising the heck out of that domain when you can just point people to Facebook — where they already are? The days or promotion-specific domains may be coming to a close thanks to Facebook.

IDNs and other Emerging Domains

Lastly, as Andy noted, we have a new type of ccTLD emerging, known as an Internationalized Domain Name. These non-Latin domains could open the door to a new wave of registrations — and replace Latin ccTLDs (and .com) in many markets around the world. This is all speculation of course, but IDNs are here now and should not be overlooked by multinationals.

And then there is the coming of the brand-specific generic TLDs, such as .canon. In March of this year, Canon announced that it intended to register .canon. It’s safe to assume that Canon will no longer promote canon.com after it gets its new domain, and other companies are sure to follow. How many companies do follow, and how successful these domains ultimately are, who knows.

With all these alternatives out there, I still find that when I need to register a new domain that I look up .com first. The good news now is that there are so many other options available in the event that the .com domain is already taken.


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One Response to Has Dot Com Lost Its "Must Have" Status to Facebook and Local?

  1. John – very thought provoking and interesting piece. Don’t you think though that the dot com is the gold standard – losing its lustre when times are good – but always the safe haven when times get tough. And it looks to me as if dot com prices in the aftermarket are currently rocketing?

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