Domain Name Extensions

I have always felt that a commercial web service’s name should have a .com extension.

The .org extension is fine for a real non-profit, but not for anything else.

And I really dislike the .net extension for web services.

So for the past ten years, I have encouraged every company I’ve worked with to pick a name where they can get the .com extension or buy the .com extension for a reasonable price.

I feel that $25k to $50k is a “reasonable price” to pay for a .com domain of your preferred name. It’s great if you can get it for less and anything more is crazy and you should pick a new name.

I don’t like hyphenated names that allow you to get the name you want with the .com extenstion.

That pretty much sums up how I’ve felt about this issue for the past ten years.

But my feelings on this issue are starting to change a bit, driven in part by the difficulty of finding good name, particularly good names where the .com extension is available.

Services like del.icio.us and last.fm and blip.tv are showing us a new way.

Country level domain name extensions (.us, .fm, .tv, etc) have been around for a long time. They are recognized at the root DNS level which means they are reachable by 100% of the web which is critical. And more and more of these country level domain name extensions are starting to be used for non-country level purposes.

I remember the first time I heard of this idea. It was 1998 or 1999 and my partner at Flatiron, Bob Greene, brought in a deal where a company had purchased the entire top level domain of the small Pacific island nation of Tuvalu. Their top level domain was .tv. I thought the idea was nuts and we never gave the .TV Corporation much consideration.

But that company ended up being purchased by Verisign and you can purchase .tv domain names quite easily and many have done so. For web services that are offering a video or television like experience, I think it makes a ton of sense.

Micronesia also has an interesting country level doman extension, .fm. You can buy domains with that extension quite easily, as last.fm, has done. I think its an excellent domain name extension for those companies offering an audio/radio type service on the web.

The .us extension is also available, it is the country level domain for the United States. Joshua Schachter did something interesting with that extension when he bought the icio.us name and added del. in front of it to create Delicious. I don’t recommend that approach to naming your web service, but it worked for Joshua and I expect we’ll see clever entrepreneurs doing things like that more in the future.

I much prefer this creative approach to domain name extensions than the seven “alternative top level domains” that have been approved by ICANN:

.aero
.biz
.coop
.info
.museum
.name
.pro

I think using those is just as bad as using .net. It says “I couldn’t get the name I wanted so I went with something else”. I particularly don’t like the .biz name. I think its awful.

The final option is a sub domain, like I use here on this weblog (avc.blogs.com). I don’t recommend that for a destination web service, but if you take Joshua’s trick, and apply it to a .com subdomain, you might be able to come up with something clever that works well.

The bottom line is naming a web service is getting harder. I still like the .com extension best and encourage everyone to start there. But if you can’t get what you want for a reasonable price, there are other options to consider, particularly if you get creative.

Here’s a great schedule of the various options and the pros and cons of each.