Is .com worth changing your name?

taking .com global IDNs

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Venture capitalist Paul Graham believes so. He notes:

100% of the top 20 YC companies by valuation have the .com of their name. 94% of the top 50 do. But only 66% of companies in the current batch have the .com of their name. Which suggests there are lessons ahead for most of the rest, one way or another.

As an owner of many .com domains, I’m certainly a fan of the domain.

And I’d be hesitant to launch a new brand or company without first securing one.

But if I were based in, say, Indonesia, would I care as much about .com? Would I prefer to register the country code .ID?

 

And if I were to launch a purely mobile company, would my domain matter at all? Have we reached a point in time where the next wave of the world’s largest companies will exist largely domainless? It’s certainly feasible. Visit the website of Shapchat and you don’t get the software application; all you get is blinded by a highly annoying shade of yellow. Granted, Snapchat is hosted at .com, but it could have just as easily been hosted at .XYZ.

Which brings me to Google, which hosts its new parent company Alphabet at abc.xyz (Google does not own alphabet.com).

I don’t want to read too much into this domain in particular, only to mention that the rules today have changed.

That said, I largely agree with Paul Graham regarding .com. There are plenty of legal reasons to lock up the domain. And, for better or worse, the .com domain is considered a global domain name (and, by most Americans) an American domain name.

But my point is this: Don’t view .com as your only domain name. Don’t overlook country codes and IDNs as you build out your global presence. 

 

Hotels.com, Hotels.ng and the value of country codes

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I read today about the Nigerian startup Hotels.ng and my first thought was why Hotels.com didn’t already own the Nigerian country code.

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After all, Hotels.com owns country codes for France and Italy and Japan, among others.

But was apparently late to registering country codes for Germany and Netherlands — as well as Nigeria (Africa’s most populous country).

Now, in Hotels.com’s defense, its global brand is “com.” And its global gateway strategy is intended to reinforce this fact; country codes are used as redirects only.

I should also note that Hotels.com finished in the top 10 in this year’s Web Globalization Report Card.

Nevertheless, I’m not convinced that .com is the best global strategy — particularly in emerging markets, where country codes are strong indicators of local companies.

For large multinationals, ccTLDs are trivial expenses, even if you have no short-term plans for using them. Speaking of, the ccTLD for Hotels.bw (Botswana) is for sale for roughly $2,000.

Which leads me to wonder who is going to register the new generic top-level domain .hotels.

This seems like a natural fit for Hotels.com, and yet Booking.com has applied for it (although the application status is on hold).

PS: I recently completed a book (review coming) that talks about the threat that emerging market companies post to established multinationals. I wonder if this is one such future case study.

Domain name registrations surpass 280 million

According to Verisign’s domain name industry brief, TLD registrations hit 280 million in the second quarter of 2014.

Here’s a list of the leading domains overall:

top-TLDs

Note that the .TK ccTLD is technically a country code but is marketed as a generic TLD, and quite successfully it seems. So Germany is effectively the leading ccTLD.

Interesting data points:

  • Country codes, at 129 million registrations, account for more than half of all domain names registered
  • The top 10 ccTLDs comprise 66.3% of all ccTLD registrations
  • The new wave of generic TLDs haven’t made much of impact yet in terms of registrations

Link

Go global with .INTERNATIONAL? I don’t think so.

GoDaddy is marketing the new top-level domain INTERNATIONAL.

GoDaddy .International domain

This is one TLD that I can’t imagine recommending to anyone.

For starters, you don’t need this domain to go global. Every TLD is inherently global in reach.

And if you really want to go global, you need to register local domains, as in country codes and language-specific domains.

As I often say: The Internet connects computers; language connects people.

A 13-character, Latin-based domain is not going to get you very far in countries for which Latin is not the native script, like say the world’s largest Internet market: China.

So despite what GoDaddy says, you don’t need “.international” to go international.

From Russian to Arabic to Chinese, new TLDs have arrived

Cyrillic IDNs

This screen is from a website advertising two new top level domains in Cyrillic.

Here are the two domains and what they represent:

.САЙТ (Website)

.ОНЛАЙН (Online)

Two other domains that were recently approved by ICANN were in Arabic and Chinese:

شبكة  (Network)
游戏  (Game)

This is just the tip of iceberg. Many more non-Latin domains are in the pipeline for approval, the bulk of them being Chinese domains. Amazon and Google are among the many prospective applicants.

Even the Angry Birds creators are getting into the game. Here are the two domains they’ve procured:

.在线 (Online)
.中文网 (Chinese site)

Chinese language TLDs

From this article about the two new Chinese domains acquired by the Angry Birds duo:

…the entrepreneurs see these two new ones as common sense options, as many people already use the terms “___online” and “___Chinese site” when searching for things on the web. For example, a Chinese person might typically search for “Nokia Chinese site” (in Chinese, of course), so it’d make sense for Nokia to buy that new URL. “It’s bringing your brand closer to the search term,” Simon points out.

It’s also argued that the new ‘.online’ and ‘.Chinese site’ options are easier for China’s mobile netizens to write on their smartphones, sticking 100 percent to their Chinese keyboard rather than switching to English to type out, say, “Tmall.com”. China currently has 460 million mobile web users.

According to the ICANN blog post Dawn of a New Internet Era:

It’s no accident that the first tranche of gTLDs to be delegated are all non-Latin strings – or as we officially refer to them, Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) gTLDs. In addition to facilitating competition and innovation through the New gTLD Program, one of ICANN’s key aims is to help create a globally inclusive Internet, regardless of language or region. For this reason, we elected to prioritize the processing of IDN applications and their delegation.

Will these new domains succeed?

I think some of them will, and hugely so. I also think it will take time. And perhaps a few new brand names that lead with these domains instead of using them as fallback domains.

Despite the many criticisms of the gTLD program, as I noted earlier, the Internet needs to open the door for URLs in other scripts.

That door is now open.