The well known “.com” may finally be getting some real competition. Chances are that most websites you currently use end in .com. Although there are many alternatives (ex: .net, .org., .co), the .com Top Level Domain (TLD) is highly coveted and has always been the preferred TLD for business and personal web sites.

The group responsible for administering TLDs, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), has recently started releasing more than 900 new TLDs. Examples of some new TLDs: .marketing, .guru, .email, .today, .technology, .bar, .food, and many more.

This is a drastic departure from the historically available TLDs. Up until recently TLDs included a handful of preferred “generic” domains (ex: .com, .net, .org) and a collection of country code domains (ex: .us, uk). But these were ineffective compared to the mighty .com, and the reign of the .com domain has continued through today. The problem is, after more than 30 years of .com being the most coveted TLD, there just aren’t that many .coms left.

Each time I start a new project or product I search for a domain name and always hope to land a .com. It’s practically impossible to get a good .com that is meaningful to your company or product and you often have to resort to naming strategies to find an available .com that is sort of, kind of, fitting. As an example, a client of mine, Lavish Limousines, needed a domain name for the business. Of course lavish.com, lavishlimos.com, and other variations were already taken. We settled on lavishlimosva.com. Although not a horrible name, the “va” was tacked onto the end simply to get a somewhat relevant domain name, even though “va” is not in his company name. But it was a necessary evil.

New companies often pick a company name based on available domain names. After all, if you’re starting fresh it is best for your domain name and company name to be the same so as to reinforce your brand. That often leads to companies with creative misspellings such as Google (the real word is googol), zoomr (instead of zoomer), and Digg (instead of dig), or compounds such as SearchFox.com, WordPress.com, and YouTube.com. There are many other naming strategies such as using phrases (StumbleUpon.com), foreign words (Rojo.com), blends (Wikipedia.org), tweaked words (eBay – which stands for electronic bay area…San Francisco), or simply making up an obscure word (plaxo.com) and hoping it sticks.

The point is – getting a .com is hard. In fact, it’s too hard. Once when I was searching for a .com I mentioned to my daughter how it was impossible to find a domain name. She literally searched using every letter on the keyboard starting at the top left (qwertyuioplkjhgfdsazxcvbnm.com). Amazingly, it was taken, but if you really wanted it you could buy it on the secondary market for $1200! Is that ridiculous or what?

What this means is that companies have no choice but to turn to other TLDs besides .coms because they’re simply no longer available. But up until now the alternatives haven’t been that great. Going forward, with hundreds of meaningful generic TLDs, I think the .com will lose its luster. It’ll take a year or two for the public to consider non-.coms to be legitimate, but once they overcome the initial resistance to change then there will be no turning back. Imagine a day when vbautos.com is taken, but vb.autos or vb.cars are available. If you sell cars in Virginia Beach, you’ll have an opportunity to get a great domain while also claiming to be the premier car sales company for your entire market. Once the public accepts new TLDs, and they will, and businesses switch to using meaningful non-.coms, what will happen to .com?

With the onslaught of domain options, I believe that .com will become passé in 2-3 years. At a minimum, there’s a good chance that .com will no longer be the defacto, must have, top level domain. In that case, it behooves you to get a meaningful non-.com now before the trend is noticed by the masses.

Car dealers in Virginia Beach – go get vb.auto or vb.com. 501 Grill in Virginia Beach – get 501.club while you can. Granby Theater in Norfolk – snag granby.theater. Catering companies in Norfolk – buy norfolk.catering. Besides, what’s the worst that can happen if .com’s supremacy survives? Worst case, you’ll be out $30 per year for a couple of year and then you could just drop the domain name. So there’s really no downside to getting a new domain name, but a potentially huge upside.

These 900+ new TLDs are the next land grab for Internet domain names. Take a look at what’s available on godaddy.com and, as they say “find the right name, right now.”


Also published in Inside Business on Apr 25, 2014.