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Finding a good .com domain name can be tough work these days. There's a good chance that when you go to your favorite domain registrar and type in that perfect .com, it's taken.

There are, of course, alternatives to .com. And one of the alternatives receiving a big marketing push is .co.

The domain .co, is the country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for Colombia, has one big thing going for it: it's like .com, without the 'm'. For individuals and businesses using .com, that makes registering a .co equivalent a natural protective measure. For individuals and businesses who find that the perfect .com is already taken, .co may be more appealing than, say, .biz or .info. And finally, .co is a juicy target for opportunists looking to capitalize on typo type-ins.

For all of these reasons, more than half a million .co domains have been registered since they officially became available to all in July of this year. And now the world's largest domain name registrar, GoDaddy, is looking to grow that number substantially by marketing .co to all of its customers and potential customers.

Go to GoDaddy today and you won't be asked to search for a .com domain name, as is typically the case at most registrars. Instead, GoDaddy has made .co the default TLD for all domain searches. If you want to register a .com, you'll need to select .com from a drop-down, even though GoDaddy elsewhere notes that .com is "the most popular domain."

Not surprisingly, GoDaddy's move has raised some eyebrows. But it makes perfect business sense. Since it's common wisdom that most of the 'good' .coms have already been registered, making .com the default TLD selection is costly. After all, millions of people visit GoDaddy.com each month, many looking to buy a domain name. And many of them will simply walk away when they find that their perfect .com domain name is somebody else's. Since there are far fewer .co domains registered, making .co the default TLD gives GoDaddy a greater opportunity to tell potential customers "This domain is available for registration!"

Sweetening the deal: .co domains go for $29.99/year -- three times what a .com will set you back. More available domains coupled with domains that cost three times as much could equal big bucks for GoDaddy.

But there's a little problem: .co's 'similarity' to .com means that some customers will inevitably register a .co domain name not recognizing that it's a .co domain name. And you can be sure that a few of them will be unhappy when they learn that they own mydomain.co, not mydomain.com. From this perspective, GoDaddy's .co push is certain to be called deceptive by some. Already, GoDaddy already has plenty of critics of its upselling techniques.

But calling GoDaddy's .co push deceptive isn’t entirely fair. Individuals should be careful when buying anything online, let a domain name, and anyone who unwittingly registers an unwanted .co domain should first blame himself or herself for not paying attention. With the specter of thousands of TLDs on the horizon, we'll all need to get used to the idea of a more cluttered and confusing domain name system.

Pragmatically, however, it would seem that the world's 800 pound registrar is pushing the limits given the number of domain name registrations that it processes. There's a decent possibility that a whole lot of people will be the not-so-proud owners of a new .co domain, and if this turns out to be the case, it can only mean one thing: a class action lawsuit or two.

Update: GoDaddy has reverted back to .com as the default on its registration forms. According to Juan Diego Calle, who runs the company that operates the .co registry, this was "only a test to measure conversions, customer feedback, and much more."

Patricio Robles

Published 15 November, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2378 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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Godofredo

It was actually a one day test, they switched it back to ".com" yesterday. I'm sure they'd refund anybody who made a mistaken registration. Generally with GoDaddy you can return any domain within the first couple days if you just ask. .CO is nice though - really happy to have finally been able to grab some keyword domains for our company which I'd never be able to get in the old .com extension. We're in the process of developing these out for our business.

over 5 years ago

Gary Chambers

Gary Chambers, Proprietor at SEO Websites

In search rankings some would be surprised that .co did not rank as well as .com internationally as Google's algorithm would geo-target this a business operating in Columbia rather than world-wide.

over 5 years ago

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Edgar

FYI - that country is spelled "Colombia" I believe.  I think Columbia is a city in South Carolina.

over 5 years ago

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ctclocal

Not only do consumers feel .co is some sort of foreign web domain, it will lead to much confusion. dot com didn't become the standard because of marketing. Domain companies have tried to shape consumer behavior before with segmented domains like .tv, .biz, etc.. They thought they could create a segment like .gov or .org. .co will never have the same appeal as .com. They either need to revamp the whole system or acknowledge that dot com will always be the primary and everything else a secondary domain.

over 5 years ago

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L. Broad

.Co domains offer an outstanding opportunity for business managers and SEO experts.

The Co domains are not limited to Go Daddy, all other registrars sell them. Go Daddy are simply prepared to promote them the most. (I have heard that some registrars are offering the domain registration for as little as $15)

Google classes them as vanity domains so they have an equal footing with the .net and .com domains. The geo targeting typically used by search engines on vanity domains is based on language, content and external links. NOT the vanity ccTLD.

The advantage of having a good ‘keyword’ domain name is massive, in my opinion it’s more important than what type of extension it has.  

In a recent survey it showed people automatically associate “co” with company or corporation. The average user does not care if its a ccTLD or gTLD. It’s the association that counts.

If people associate the domain with company and it operates like an international domain, It is a quality domain extension. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

I don’t claim .co will overtake .com, but this is exactly what the web needs, it allows the smaller business managers a chance to compete with the bigger companies.  

P.S. The majority of traffic comes via search engines, therefore buying domain names for “typo traffic” is pointless. Also never register trade marked domain names, the co registry seem to be very strict (rightly so!!!!)

over 5 years ago

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