It’s rare for any single product or item to command over 45% of the global market. It’s almost unprecedented for any product to enjoy such a dominant market share when it’s up against over a thousand competitors. Yet that’s exactly what’s happened with the .com top level domain. Despite boundless choice when it comes to domain name suffixes, .com continues to leave all rivals trailing in its wake.
First among sequels
There are good reasons for .com’s continuing dominance, not least its creation six years before Sir Tim Berners-Lee devised the World Wide Web and made the internet mainstream. IT and computing companies were the only ones using this online platform for a number of years, which is why the first websites to go live all used .com. These companies were mostly American, and even the launch of .us as a country code TLD failed to tempt them away from ending their domain names with a corporate abbreviation. Then, as now, .com had global appeal and universal recognition – something that can’t be said for many of its subsequent competitors. Also, familiar things are comforting and reassuring to people. The .com TLD became the default as internet usage spiked, leading the first generation of web users to treat it as an obvious choice without even thinking about alternatives.
In this environment, it was perhaps inevitable other generic TLDs would suffer. Today, 46.5% of all live websites use a .com TLD, while roughly 40% have adopted country code TLDs. These two-letter domain suffixes have been generated for every nation on Earth, from 1980s’ stalwarts like .uk and.us to millennial additions such as .ps (for the State of Palestine). And that leaves around 13% of the market for every other generic TLD, of which there are many, thanks to the actions of a global not-for-profit organization…
ICANN – can you?
The late 1990s was a chaotic time for the internet. Because .com dominated the market, speculators bulk-bought domain names for brands and businesses. Companies attempting to create an online presence discovered every obvious web address already belonged to speculators, demanding exorbitant fees to surrender ownership. There was no record of who owned a particular domain name, so in 1998, the non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was launched to regulate this troubled industry. One of their first tasks involved reducing demand for .com, leading to a torrent of new gTLDs being released throughout the Noughties. It started as a trickle – five in 2001 and just two the following year – before 2014 threw the floodgates open as over 200 gTLDs were launched.
Although ICANN’s distribution of gTLDs was inspired by companies seeking to register new niches within this exploding market, gTLDs could essentially be condensed into one of five categories:
#1. Industry specific. These were intended to provide alternatives for companies unable or unwilling to register a .com TLD. Examples include .storage, .marketing and .radio.
#2. Novelty. The internet was never intended as a flippant platform, so ICANN’s approval of applications for .sucks, .wtf and .meme raised a few eyebrows.
#3. Cultural. Today it’s possible to purchase a .halal gTLD or indicate a vague geographic presence with .africa. The .bible TLD speaks for itself, as does .lgbt.
#4. Leisure. The proliferation of leisure activities organized and promoted online has seen .tickets, .racing, .condos and .guitars (among many others) launched since 2010.
#5. Philanthropic. Back in 1985, .org was intended for nonprofits and charities. Today, these organizations are also able to register .foundation, .memorial or even .charity.
Should I consider a new gTLD?
There’s no simple answer to that question. It’s difficult to make sweeping assertions when so many new top level domains are in circulation. Some domains – particularly 2006’s .me and 2001’s .biz – quickly became enduringly popular. Yet many arrived to a collective shrug of indifference and rapidly disappeared from view. When was the last time you went onto a website ending in .click, .organic or .wang?
Of course, limited demand means abundant supply, which lowers overall costs. While a preferred .com TLD might be in use, it’s unlikely the .club or .guru alternatives will be. At Midphase we stock an extensive choice of cheap domains, and searching for a particular domain name on our homepage will reveal 300 possible options. We are currently offering certain TLDs at just $1.49 for the first year of ownership, placing super-cheap domains within anyone’s reach.
Choosing cheap domains
Even though Midphase sells several hundred gTLDs, we’ve elected not to supply the majority of ICANN’s post-Millennial releases. Consumers are often wary about visiting strange or unusual website addresses, and we wouldn’t want our customers to experience limited site traffic because of an obscure domain choice. Low traffic volumes harm search engine performance, which drives 80% of first-time site visits, creating a vicious circle.
Similarly, we made a conscious decision not to market any domains associated with spam. The likes of .men and .top have been irreparably damaged by their use on junk sites. While legitimate platforms undoubtedly use both suffixes, we couldn’t recommend our customers purchase a domain incorporating one of these gTLDs. The only domains in our database are those we’re confident in promoting – from .academy to .zone. Such options are undoubtedly niche, but institutions across America might be able to benefit from adopting them.
Ultimately, your choice of top level domain comes down to priorities. Cheap domains provide a cost-effective way of establishing an online presence if finance is tight. Industry-specific TLDs support shorter domain names – watchiton.tv, rather than watchitontv.com – which are easier to remember and quicker to type. Niche domains can be useful if obvious alternatives like .biz and .org have already been registered, and.com retains its position as a default option, thanks to a global presence and boundless consumer trust. Just be aware it’s not the only top level domain worth considering.
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