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New domain name extensions – 7 rules to “get” them

2014-07-17

Since February 2014 until now (February 2016) 67.343 people have registered a .guru domain name. How is it possible? Look: .Guru was one of the first new domain name extensions to see the light of day. Due to the novelty factor of these domain endings and the peculiar wording people thought that this was a funny story. So they registered a .guru, showed their friends, who then went in and did the same. The only problem was: None of them knew what to use them for. This post will give you 7 rules to understand, how the domain name extensions can work for you

For me .guru and other ridiculous new domain extensions like .wtf and .ninja give the new domain name system a bad name. The thing is that deep down I'm a big fan of these endings, and convinced that they will dominate the internet landscape, when we look back 3-5 years from now. Let me explain why.

Prepared for the flood - 1.400 new domain name extensions in 2014-16

While you earlier had to settle for .com, .net or a country code TLD such as .fr or .de, the market is now flooded with domain endings which mean something on the right side of the dot. We will see around 1.400 new releases until end 2016 such as .berlin, .law and .cricket plus dot brands like .bmw, .lego and .suzuki.

The reason why the new top level domains are so much better than .com

The new domain name extensions have the ability to communicate on each side of the dot. This means that you can brand your company much more efficiently. In a world of noise this is a huge advantage. I recently did an interview with Rob Rozicki from Starting Dot, the registry behind .ski, and he puts it like this:

"Internet users now have the ability to add another layer of choice filtering, saving them time. Website owners benefit from this too, they will have more qualified visitors coming to their sites, increasing engagement and conversion".

Let's take a real example: Atomic, the ski manufacturer, shares brand name with:

  1. A Norwegian jazz band
  2. An Australian PC news site
  3. A British retro magazine
  4. A song by Blondie and the list goes on and on.

With the web address atomic.ski they distance themselves from the rest of the bunch and add the "layer of choice" that Rob refers to: Easier for internet users to find and easier for website owners to communicate.

But .com is King forever, right?

Any forum where domain names are discussed is dominated by domainers. They make a living reselling .com domains. They all comment the same way:

".com is king forever - New TLDs are a joke".

Why do they react like this?

First off, their business is threatened, so it's a natural reaction to belittle the opposition. Secondly, many domainers simply don't understand the nature of the new domain endings. Where .com relies on scarcity and an existing aftermarket, the new domain name extensions can be compared to a scenario where De Beers lost their diamond monopoly. The offer is now so inmense that domainers cannot control the market. It's my humble opinion that .com will surely be king forever - however only in the declining market of old school domainers and their clients. If you are a young entrepreneur today, who starts out selling ski equipment, then .ski is the natural choice. And existing companies will follow as well. According to Netnames' Internet 2020 report 92% of large companies in the US, Britain, France and Germany interviewed plan to invest in new domain names over the next three years.

Will internet users understand the new tlds?

It's my impression that internet users don't understand the value of them today, and especially if their first encounter with them was the .guru domain. However, internet users will grasp the idea quickly, when they see results popping up on Google for websites using any of the new extensions.

And there is a monster truck ready to leave the garage : the dot brands. When big brands like BMW or Nike decide that it's time to use .bmw or .nike actively, then users will really be aware about this new breed of domain endings. It will ease the transition towards the usage of new domain extensions. It's surely not a shift which will happen overnight. Right now there are only around 12M domain registrations, (4% of total registrations) however when the shift happens, it will go very fast.

Here are the 7 rules to register the right new domain extensions

f you are planning to register the new domain endings for your business, you are looking at a jungle of opportunities. So where to start? Many of these will fail inside the next years, as they simply don't add value. So how do you identify which ones will define the internet landscape for years to come? As promised in the headline I have narrowed it down to 7 rules. No rule without an exception, but this is a good guide to make sure, you don't wander off in the wrong direction and rebrand to a .guru domain name. I have based these rules on the current stats available, my interviews with industry people and 10 years' experience in the domain name field. I would like to state that if your intention is solely to do defensive registrations, then you should look at domain extensions which match your business. Are you a jeweller then get your brand.diamonds, brand.luxury, brand.paris etc. Don't get hyped about not securing brand.accountants. It's simply too far from the users' perception of your brand, so there will be no confusion to avoid.

Here are my 7 rules:

  1. Short and semantically correct It's all about memorability. If you see it on a billboard while driving 75 mph, you should be able to remember it. As Jeff Sass from .Club Domains points out golf.club works better than club.golf, because it's semantically correct.
  2. It has to mean something .xyz has the most registrations to date, however most were given away to domain registrar clients, who had to opt out not to get one. .xyz doesn't mean anything, and therefore doesn't possess the "layer of choice fltering" that Rob Rozicki mentioned earlier.
  3. The domain ending is the denominator for the niche / community / group / geographic place E.g. there's no alternative to .tennis, however .law will have to fight for market share with .lawyers. and .hotel has to co-exist with the plural version .hotels
  4. A passionate community 2 billion passionate fans can't be wrong. .Cricket is destined to be a blockbuster. I doubt that .tax will get the same love.
  5. It can work both globally and locally .Ski works both in English and many other languages. This will enable you as the website owner to connect with users in the given country in their language.
  6. The Registry's ability to market their new domain extension While many of the new domain endings will suffer from the Darwinian evolution and simply fade away in a dusty corner of the internet, there are some registries, which will be smart enough to market an otherwise clumsy domain extension in the right way. It could be by partnering with powerful domain registrars or using the right spokesperson.
  7. Dot City domains The characteristics of these are covered in rule 3, however they stand out from the rest. Internet users already understand their DNA, given that they are used to country code top level domains. This Dot City Domain infographic shows all 45 extensions.

Summoning up

Internet users still don't understand that new beast of the new domain name extensions. However they will change the internet landscape over time, and it's doubtful if .com will remain king. You should already now plan to invest in these, whether you wish to rebrand at a later stage, use them for marketing campaigns or simply defend your brand name. However it's a jungle to understand which of the new domain endings to go for. Follow our 7 rules and you will get the right start.

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