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During the internet boom of the late 1990s, companies flush with investor cash regularly spent big bucks acquiring generic .com domain names.

The rise of the .com domain name culminated in the sale of Business.com for $7.5m in 1999.

After the .com bust, the pace of multi-million dollar domain name sales slowed, although more than a few domains have changed hands for seven figures in the past decade.

But despite the fact that there has been a vibrant trade in domain names amongst investors, speculators and businesses, many have come to question whether a great .com domain is really even necessary on today's internet.

To be sure, there's plenty of reason to question whether spending hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars on the perfect .com is good idea. Super-popular online services with names like Twitter prove that you don't need a generic brand to succeed, and companies like bit.ly demonstrate that you can build a service used by millions of people around previously-uncommon ccTLDs.

But companies thinking that .com isn't king might want to consider Overstock.com's rebranding nightmare.

The online retailer was one of the most prominent adopters of the .co ccTLD. .co, of course, is the ccTLD for Colombia, but many domain name registrars have been pushing it hard since its 'relaunch' last year. And it's not hard to understand why: .co is .com without the 'm'. So it must be at least two-thirds as good as .com, right?

Not quite. After trying to rebrand itself as O.co, Overstock.com has decided to revert back to Overstock.com, "for now." Insisting that "We're still focused on getting to O.co," Overstock.com President Jonathon Johnson admitted to AdAge, "We were going too fast and people were confused".

The cost of "going too fast": after featuring O.co in television ads, updating its website and even changing the signage on a sports stadium it owns the naming rights to, Overstock.com found that many were going to o.com, not o.co. That was an obvious problem because Overstock.com doesn't own o.com.

The fact that a good number of consumers didn't get the .co branding probably isn't that surprising to most of us, but even so, Overstock.com's blunder serves as a powerful reminder: if it isn't broken, don't try to fix it. When it comes to domain names, it's hard to go wrong with .com.

Patricio Robles

Published 16 November, 2011 by Patricio Robles

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

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Comments (1)

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Sandra Jones

Companies need to have the right kind of strategy when it comes to marketing, both online and off-line. There are a number of businesses (like Overstock) which got their numbers wrong.

Hope companies learn from their mistakes. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post!

almost 5 years ago

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