By Erica Bray
Over the past year, you might have seen website URLs that look like this:
At first blush, they’re all website domain names. Duh.
But look a little closer. Each has an ending that isn’t your typical ‘dot-com’ (.com).
More often than not, this discovery will inspire curiosity and beg the question: What’s the deal with these new 'dot-whatevers'? Are they legit?
The short answer: Yes, they are legit. Very much so.
Since 2014, nearly 1,000 new options -- from 'dot-photography' (.photography) to 'dot-agency' (.agency) to 'dot-guru' (.guru) -- have been made available to the public to better craft a domain name that is creative, meaningful and memorable.
But as with anything new, there are common misconceptions and questions about the hundreds of new “not-com” domain extensions entering the Internet namespace.
You're probably asking a few right now.
Let's tackle the four most common questions (also highlighted in the video above).
They aren’t necessary.
Um, have you tried to secure a ‘dot-com’ (.com) domain name recently?
Securing a memorable URL for your new business or brand can be a real pain in the a$$. Most of the “good ones” in ‘dot-com’ territory are taken. Or worse, some Internet real estate tycoon is holding onto it, awaiting the highest bidder. So unless you’ve got thousands, maybe millions, to spend on your ideal ‘dot-com’ URL, chances are you’ll be out of luck of securing a short and memorable one.
As entrepreneurship enters a digital Golden Age with more startups are coming online than ever before, it was time to expand the Internet namespace. Businesses and personal brands now needn’t compromise their names just because the ‘dot-com’ is unavailable. Not-coms provide new choice.
“Businesses for a very long time were relying on 'dot-com' for their domain name, and it was so frustrating to find one that fit,” says digital marketing expert Atilla Vekony, co-founder of Icon Digital Solutions (Icon.digital). “People ended up with a lot of stupid business names because the 'dot-com' wasn't available."
This spectrum of new extensions can help you create a URL that is meaningful and memorable – and can even more obviously classify your business category, such as with ‘dot-photography’ (.photography), 'dot-florist' (.florist) and ‘dot-legal’ (.legal).
They are confusing.
Yes, change can be kinda hard -- at first. But we’ve gotten through an expansion of zip codes and telephone area codes. What’s happening on the Internet is no different. New territory is being created to benefit an ever-expanding population of digital users.
Think of not-com extensions as new “zip codes” under which businesses and personal brands can be found. In fact, communities are even beginning to form around them. Take ‘dot-farm’ (.farm), for instance.
“Our domain actually helps identify us much better than a ‘dot-com,’” Lynette Miller says of her family farm’s domain name, CountryGarden.farm. “It’s really clearly identifying what we are: We’re a farm. It’s so simple. It’s so easy.”
Suyog Mody, co-founder of the subscription-based coffee delivery service Driftaway Coffee, which uses the domain Driftaway.coffee, agrees. “Having ‘dot-coffee’ in the address serves as a great descriptor, whereas dot-com just means ‘commercial,’” he says. “People are still getting used to it, so they ask about it. When I tell them there’s no dot-com at the end of the address, they can feel that we are modern and cutting-edge.”
My business won’t be found online.
Not true. Google has gone on the record saying: “new domain endings are not treated any differently than traditional domain name endings like .com or .org. Domain names with new endings are shown in search just like any other domain name.”
This comes from the world’s largest search engine -- also a major investor in the “not-com” domain space, having recently paid $25 million for the rights to ‘dot-app’ (.app). Google has good reason to make sure that businesses and brands who choose these new domains are served up in search results.
Recent case studies cited by Bill Hartzer, a senior SEO strategist with more than 20 years of search engine marketing experience, also help to illustrate the SEO benefits of not-com domains. "Personally, I’ve helped a lot of websites migrate from .com domains to keyword rich New gTLD [not-com] domains," he writes, "and have seen good results."
Keep in mind, however, being “found” online isn’t pegged to your domain name alone. It’s part of a bigger SEO (Search Engine Optimization) that puts tremendous value on website content, page load times and longevity. Be smart and strategic with how you build, support and optimize your website, and visitors will come.
See Related: How to Be Found Online: 8 Tips to Winning SEO
They are untrustworthy.
New extensions are just as safe and effective as ones that have been available for the last thirty years. Not only is an international governing board, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), managing the stability and security of the entire Internet domain system, but we have major businesses already demonstrating this safety in action.
Look to Google, for instance. In 2015 it launched its parent company, Alphabet, on the domain Abz.xyz. In early 2016, it launched its company Google Domains, a one-stop shop to purchase domain names and build websites, on Domains.google. Yep, that is ‘dot-google’ (.google).
If Google is going the “not-com” direction, it speaks volumes to the credibility of this online trend – and a powerful predictor of what the Internet will look like within the coming years.
As with anything on the Internet, however, it’s up to the consumer to do a little due diligence when it comes to determining a website’s legitimacy. This is true even across ‘dot-com’ sites. Just because a business has a slick-looking website, doesn’t mean they have pure motives. When in doubt, check with the Better Business Bureau and online consumer forums.
While trust will come with time for most, those getting in on the ground floor of this Internet renaissance recognize it as a forward-thinking measure with the future in mind. Akram Atallah, president of ICANN's global domains division, has said new domain choice is "targeted toward the next 2.5 to 3 billion people who are going to join the Internet in the next 10, 20, 30 years."
The Internet is growing -- FAST -- and finally new territory is being created to help support that growth.