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With ICANN set to allow the expansion of the pool of gTLDs, you can be sure that many marketers will be hearing, and thinking a lot about, domain names in the near future.

But are domain names becoming less important? Ev Williams, who started Blogger and co-founded Twitter, thinks so.

In a blog post, he lays out the reasons he thinks domains don't mean as much as they used to. They are:

  • The popularity of search (read: Google).
  • Auto-completion functionality in browser address bars.
  • The lack of address bars in mobile browsers.
  • The prominence of companies using not-coms (think: last.fm, bit.ly, etc.).

According to Williams:

While a good .com name is still worth a lot, it's not as crucial to success on the internet as it used to be. And the forces that have made it less important will continue to make it less important over time (especially the mobile-related ones). I'd still opt (and pay up) for a nice, clean .com if I could get one, but I wouldn't consider it a must have.

Far more important: choosing the right product and brand names.

Needless to say, Williams makes some good points. Picking a horrible brand name because a .com is available is certainly not advisable, and success on the internet doesn't require the six or seven-figure acquisition of a 'premium' .com.

At the same time, companies probably shouldn't completely ignore the advantages of a .com:

  • For many, .com is still the internet, and the internet is still .com. Therefore, a .com carries with it a legitimacy that companies may not find with a .biz, .info, etc.
  • While companies like bit.ly have succeeded with not-coms, branding a not-com isn't always easy. This may be particularly true for companies that don't get viral exposure or target the most tech-savvy audiences.
  • Confusion is still a problem. If a 'real' company is using a .com that's an exact match for your name (or your product's name), there is a real risk of confusion. In other words, it's usually a lot more comfortable to own the 'default' TLD (.com) than to compete against someone else who is actually using it.

At the end of the day, choosing the name of a company or product is never easy. Given the shortage of available .coms, it's easy to embrace the notion that domain names are less meaningful and will continue to decline in importance.

Should a company rule out a name because the .com is unavailable? No, but the truth of the matter is that the domain name will realistically still play a role in branding decisions.

Patricio Robles

Published 24 June, 2011 by Patricio Robles

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

2380 more posts from this author

Comments (6)

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Jenni

This article needs major corrections. In the title and at the beginning it states that domains are becoming less important. It then changes tack halfway through to argue that .com domain names are becoming less important.

You may have titled it for clicks or because you're genuinely confusing the two, but the title should read '.com domain names becoming less important' if anything. Domain names are still massively important.

about 5 years ago

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UK Supplier

Hi,
I do agree with Jenni. The article provided by you, having some mistakes and errors. The major problem starts with the title that domains becoming less important. According to my knowledge and experience either its a ".com" , ".org" or anyone else, all keep their own weight-age and worth. you can not avoid the importance of a domain but I do agree that title must be relevant to the category of business to make it more clear for users. It`s creating confusion and a choppy effect in article by discussing two types of domain under the same context. I hope you are getting my point Patricio. Is it?

about 5 years ago

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Exalogics

I do not agree with Ev Williams, Domains will remain ever more important however it will certainly make it easier to chose a domain but the valus of .com will not be decreased so drastically.

The domains what have built their trust and their ranking over the years will still be just as valuable.

about 5 years ago

Neil Warren

Neil Warren, Publisher at 2N Media Ltd - ModernSelling.com

I think you're missing the point somewhat Jenni / UKS and Exalogics - and probably because you are still wedded to the idea that your people - and their conversations and thought leadership and expert advice - are less important than the "team" and "brand name" the last two of you are "hiding" behind.

People do not search for a brand name, they search for the solution to a problem - mostly that is. Thus the emphasis on "more" or "less" important than it once was (e.g. 20th Century push marketing "buy this brand" versus 21st Century pull marketing & selling - "helping people to buy").

In my humble opinion - of course!

about 5 years ago

Michele Neylon

Michele Neylon, CEO at Blacknight Internet Solutions Ltd

I'd agree with the previous comments. The article isn't about the decline in importance of domains - it's about the decline in importance of .com
Pity - as I was hoping the article might provide some new insights.

about 5 years ago

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Rob Hayden

Jenni's right though. The article IS about the reduced importance of a snappy .com domain in the light of ICANN opening up the TLDs. I also can't believe human psychology has moved so far in 10 years that brand association (e.g. Twitter, LastFM, bitly) isn't still vitally important.

about 5 years ago

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