C o r e i l e

a domain blog for ceos

June 24, 2017 (Sat)

Do you need your .brand domain extension?

In January 2012, domain organization ICANN opened application for new domain extensions, thus allowing businesses to own their .brand. This news shocked the domain industry. Many industry experts believed that once companies transition their corporate website to their .brand and start registering as many domain names as they need on this extension, then they will no longer want to spend much money to acquire .com domain names. This would lead to collapse of the .com kingdom, making it the "second-class citizen."

Now, 5 years later, how is .brand doing? Has it replaced .com? Should all businesses get their own .brand? Let's take a look.

According to ICANN, during the past 5 years, businesses applied for a total of 664 .brand extensions, but only 567 of them are still in use. This is because many of them applied but then gave up, such as .hilton, .loreal, and .safeway.

Global giants such as Facebook, Twitter, Coca-Cola, and MasterCard did not even applied. They probably thought that .brand is not necessary and has no value. Also, many companies are not actively using their .brand. IBM owns .ibm but has only one .ibm domain name: the compulsory Nic.ibm. Apple has two: Nic.apple (forward to Apple.com) and Store.apple (no content) . Microsoft is better but only has 5 .microsoft domain names.

The same situation exists in China. Just one look of the following Chinese .brand extensions and you can tell that they are not popular.

Company.brand (number of domain names)
Qihoo 360.anquan (1) .xihuan (1) .shouji (1) .yun (1)
Sina.sina (1) .weibo (1) .微博 (1)
CITIC.citic (145) .中信 (201)
ICBC.icbc (1) .工行 (1)
Sohu.sohu (5)
Baidu.baidu (1)
China United.unicom (1)
Redstone.redstone (8)
Aigo.aigo (1)
Gamease.cyou (1)
Volkswagen.大众汽车 (1)
China United.联通 (1)

Here, only Citic (No. 156 in Fortune Global 500) has registered many domain names. The group started using .citic and .中信 in 2014. It even changed its corporate website from Citic.com to Limited.citic (Citic.com forwarded to Limited.citic). However, two years later, Limited.citic was gone and Citic.com returned as their corporate website; very few of the member companies listed on Citic.com use a .brand domain name. Also, I did a Baidu search using the "中信" (citic) keyword, which returned only citicbank.com, ecitic.com, and citicgroup.com.cn on the first page; I could not find any Citic .brand domain until page 9 (Guoan.citic).

While .brand seems to be useful, many companies have applied and then lost interest in it. Why? Mark Calandra, General Manager of CSC Digital Brand Services, gave the following reasons in a recent interview: (1) moving a large amount of contents from corporate website to .brand is not easy; (2) SEO issue; (3) senior executives do not understand .brand; (4) many companies applied for brand protection only.

I think there is another very important reason: semantic. Let's use Baidu as an example. Usually, consumers say: Baidu Xinwen (Baidu news), Baidu Shipin (Baidu video), Baidu Yinyue (Baidu music) and so on. Can you see how the words flow? If you put these words on .baidu, they become Xinwen.baidu (News Baidu), Shipin.baidu (Video Baidu) and Yinyue.baidu (Music Baidu). The naming convention of .brand is opposite to how consumers think, thus making it difficult to remember .brand domain names. Brand should be positioned to the left of the dot, not the right of it.

In short, .brand has failed to gain active use and promotion in the corporate world. Its future does not look good and ".com is King" remains unshaken! For Chinese companies, .com and .cn are still the first choices and currently .brand is not needed.

Finally, I would like to thank Andrew Brier of Namestat.org for providing me with .brand data.


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