C o r e i l e

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May 20, 2017 (Sat)

Future of .com from historical perspective


Image courtesy of Pixabay.com


If domain name is real estate in the digital world, then .com is the business district: expensive and hard to acquire. Even though .com is a vital asset, many people still do not understand it nor do they even know its meaning. In the 2014 Digital Marketing and gTLD Strategy Congress, domain pioneer Monte Cahn asked this question during a talk to an internet savvy audience. Some guessed 'company' and others said 'community' or 'communication', but none was correct. .com stands for 'commerce'.

In 1985, the history of domain name began under the sponsorship of the US government. Generic extensions included .com (business), .net (network) and .org (non-profit organization) for organizations in the USA. Three country extensions were available: .us (USA), .uk (UK), and .il (Israel). In addition, three special extensions (gov, .edu and .mil) were provided for use only by American government, education and military institutions.

At the beginning, many involved with the project opposed the creation of .com because the internet was used at that time mostly by academia and research institutes with no business interests. The proponents were even prepared to delete .com should it fail to attract any use. Little did they know that .com would one day become a giant in the digital world.

.com has been lucky! When US companies slowly realized the benefits of the internet, they had two options for their websites: .us or .com. The .us extension was appropriate. However, its rigid rules pushed business owners to the open arms of .com. For example, a restaurant in Santa Monica, California had to settle for a very long domain name: zuckys.santa-monica.ca.us. Gradually, .com became the first choice for American businesses.

In the late 1990s, the Dot-com bubble introduced this extensions to millions of American consumers. During the hype, any company name containing the word ".com" coupled with a fancy business plan could grab a large chunk of capital from investors. The stock markets rocketed and TV news were full of .com stories. Corporate advertising also highlighted their.com name. Even after the bubble burst, .com remained in the minds of American consumers. It became the best extension in the US, which also drove large corporations in the world to follow and made their corporate presence on a .com domain name.

On the other hand, because .com dominated consumer awareness, often consumers could only remember this extension. This adversely affected other extensions and the migration to .com started. For example, Sonic was established in 1994 as an American internet provider. It's website was built on Sonic.net which was a perfect fit. However, some 20 years later, it gave up its fight against consumer preference and migrated to Sonic.com.

American politicians also prefer .com to the more appropriate .gov extension. In the 2016 US presidential election, most candidates including Donald Trump used a .com bearing their name. The .com wave is coming to many countries as well. For example, when the 2014 winter Olympics game was held in Sochi, Russia, Sochi2014.com was the public facing domain name and Sochi.ru even redirected to the .com website. How powerful is .com in the world!

So, over the years, .com has morphed from being a business extension within USA to now being applied in all fields and in all countries. It is truly a global standard unshaken by any other extension.

Today .com is the world's best and most expensive extension. It is No. 1 in both the US and China, and start-ups with big vision all over the world go for .com. Jack Ma once said that the next 30 years will dramatically change our lives as the internet is woven into every part of the social fabric. This will create a large number of internet businesses. With tremendous demand but little competition, good .com domain names will continue to be very expensive. Like commercial real estate, .com domain names will one day become so expensive that bank financing is required to complete the acquisition.

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Note: This post is based on one of my Chinese articles written with a China-centric perspective.