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.