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book cover: choosing the right domain name

Choosing the Right Domain Name:
a Marketing Perspective

all you need to know about domain names (and some you don't need to know, but is interesting anyway)


As I stated previously, suffixes have geographic origins. Here are the options for America, the UK and the rest of the world.

you say extension, I say suffix
In the USA and other regions of the world, the domain name suffix is commonly referred to as the extension.

The United States
Because they are not limited to registration by American organizations, US-originated domain names tend to be treated as 'global' and not country-specific. The most common are:
* .com : designated as 'commercial company'
* .net : designated as 'commercial company - alternative'
Note that .com and .net are administered by VeriSign Inc
* .org : designated as 'non-profit organization'. Although originally this was not 'policed' (it is not unusual to find commercial websites on .org domains) when the Public Interest Registry (PIR) took over its administration in 2003 it pledged to meet the 'unique needs of non-commercial organizations'

Others domains exist but are restricted to the pertinent establishments, eg .gov (government office), .mil (military) and .edu (education). In existence as long as domain names have been around, but rarely used until its 're-launch' in 2002, is the America-only .us. It is now commonly used as a second level domain for the US states eg for Florida.

In response to demands for new Top Level suffixes, the Internic has introduced:

* .info : unrestricted use
* .aero : air transport industry
* .biz : businesses - unrestricted
* .coop : co-operatives
* .name : for individuals - mainly sold as second level domains on the most common surnames eg
* .museum : yes, for museums
* .mobi : for web content which has been designed specifically for downloading to a mobile device (note that the advent of new mobile browsers - such as that on the iPhone - have rendered this domain largely redundant)
* .pro : for which second level domains were made available on: (law related services), (accountancy related services) and (health related services). These are only available to organizations and individuals that qualify as a member of the relevant US professional bodies
* .travel : for organizations in the travel industry
* .jobs : for the recruitment industry

Three of the newer TLDs (.aero, .coop, and .museum) are so-called 'sponsored top level domains' (sTLDs) created for a particular industry sector and administered by a trade body or other representative group. It is likely that any future additions will be 'sponsored' - as is the case for the recently introduced .jobs.

Whilst .com is still far and away the most popular US suffix, with others being mainly frowned upon (for .biz, read poor substitute for .com), the lack of good available .com names will inevitably lead to examples of new suffixes becoming more common in years to come. For example, the suffix .xxx has been long muted for use on websites with adult material, but protests in the US congress stalled its progress and in May 2006 it was rejected - though experience still keeps nudging me to say it might not have gone away forever.

dot biz is not the biz?
Around three quarters of registered .biz domain names have no websites on them and a quarter registered to the same organization that registered the corresponding .com (source: Harvard Law School, 2006). This would appear to make the whole .biz name something of a waste of time - except to those companies that make a profit handling the registrations.

At the time of writing, ICANN - having estimated that only 17% of the original four billion network addresses remained available, and that addresses are expected to run out within five years - put forward a suggestion for what might be the most revolutionary event in domain names to date. The proposal will allow companies to purchase new generic top-level domains ending in almost anything they wish - in particular, their brand name. So rather than me having, I could have alan.charlesworth - with 'charlesworth' being the suffix. More realistic is that an organization like eBay would come up with the fee (touted as being anything from 25 to 250,000 dollars) then sell domains to their customers for use on eBay-linked websites - alanstoys.ebay, for example. Or Nike could have,,, and so on. Another possibility might be cities (though quite who - council, private company - would own/administer the domains would be problematic) using the suffix for businesses in each city, alansrestaurant.newyork perhaps. However, given the sums of venture capitalist's money poured into 'e' businesses since the birth of the Internet, perhaps some entrepreneurial types will see an opportunity to make money by selling names based on generic top-level domains? The following spring readily to mind: .news, .restaurants, .hotels and .books. Or what about .websites or .phonenumbers for some kind of online directory? Despite innovations in domain names having a history of protracted launches, this one is planned for introduction in 2010. I'm not holding my breath.

effective use of dot info
An example of effective use of the .info suffix is the website from Procter and Gamble. This is not a corporate website, but a source of information (for consumers) on washing clothes - an 'infomercial' if you will. There is a second lesson included here regarding the spelling of similar domain names. Note of the spelling of the washing powder. Everything you need to know about the font of the same name is on

Another TLD that has been heavily promoted but seems to have had little take-up is the .me suffix. Originally planned to be for individual's websites it is, however, unrestricted. This means that for limited applications it does have certain originality - for a recruitment business or for a communications company perhaps.

the hardest-to-get suffix of them all?
The .int gTLD is reserved for international treaty-based organizations and United Nations agencies - a rather exclusive group, and so is perhaps the rarest of all top-level domains.

The United Kingdom
The second-level domains under the .uk ccTLD are:
* : UK business, unrestricted - any person or business in the world can register
* : Individuals, unrestricted - any person in the world can register
* : not for profit organizations, unrestricted - any person or business in the world can register. The 'not for profit' element of this has never been 'policed', it not unusual to find commercial websites on domains
* : UK Public Limited Companies, restricted - the domain name must be identical to the registered plc name
* : UK Limited Companies, restricted - the domain name must be identical to the registered limited company name
* : Internet network providers, restricted - though open to some flexibility. For example; seems to get round the rules by offering email services, or maybe it just slipped through the net?
* : UK schools, restricted
* : UK Higher Education establishments, restricted - though some HE-associated organizations are accepted eg
* : UK government departments, restricted
* : UK National Health Service departments, restricted
* : UK Police forces, restricted * : UK Ministry of Defense establishments or associated organizations, restricted

It is unlikely that even veteran surfers will have come across any of the following, but they are out there. Dating back to the early days of the web, all are still valid for the relevant organizations but rarely used. They are:
* : the Joint European Torus Project
* : AEA Harwell
* : the British Library
* : Imperial Cancer
* : the National Engineering Laboratory
* : the Scottish Office
* : the Central Communications and Technology Agency
* : UK parliament
* : the National Library of Scotland

Don't even think about trying to register a name on any of these.

is too easily available?
Having found that around 480,000 websites based in China and other countries are hosted on domain names, the summer of 2009 saw UK Trading Standards officers warn consumers to be vigilant when buying goods over the Internet, as they have identified a number of websites that claim to be from the UK selling counterfeit products. Perhaps a case for having more stringent rules with regard to registering a .uk domain name - a UK postal address, for example?

The Rest of the World
There are over 250 countries with a country-specific domain, for example; .de for Germany, .jp for Japan, .fr for France, .ca for Canada and .gr for Greece. More than 80 countries are 'unrestricted' meaning anyone anywhere can register names. Some of these have been heavily promoted, but they are still considered as 'novelties' in the majority of business fields. These include .tv (Tuvalu) and .cc (Cocos Islands). The use of such domains is discussed in chapter 3.01.

Each country has made the decision as to whether they use second level domains in their suffixes. The one you will see most in this book is - because I am from the UK. However, the UK is unique in its use of 'co' (we pronounce it 'coh', not see-oh) - most countries use 'com'. For example, businesses in Australia, Bahrain, Cyprus and Argentina use,, and respectively. Others - such as Canada - have opted to follow the US's lead and simply use .ca as its suffix. Some countries, however, just like to make life complicated. Greek websites, for example, can be found on both .gr and suffixes - and Mexico used only for years before deciding to allow registrations on .mx in September 2009. I'm not going to cover every country's options in this book - needless to say, if you are outside the US or UK you are likely to know your own country's options better than I.

vive l'availability
June 2006 saw one of the bastions of restricted names fall. Previously available only to professionals, associations or public bodies, the French .fr registration was made available to any individual 18 or over and with a postal address in France. Les cybersquatters and Gaelic ne'er-do-wells must have rubbed there hands with glee.

As well as country specific suffixes that use Latin characters, there are also a growing number of Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs - also referred to as multi-lingual domain names) which use characters outside A-Z, 0-9 and the hyphen. At the time of writing around 40 additional character sets are available, supporting over 350 languages including Arabic, Hebrew, Korean, Russian and Greek. The registry responsible for operating each of the domain names or suffixes decides which, if any, additional characters can be used. For instance .com and .net are available in most major character sets including Arabic, Hebrew and Han (Chinese, Japanese, Korean ideographs). Many of the European suffixes, however, offer few non-Latin characters, in the main limiting options to accented letters.

Applications of IDNs for the marketer are limited. The most obvious issue is that if the domain uses non-Latin characters only the keyboards of users in countries where those characters are used can type in the domain name (OK, I know you could write the name by inserting characters from the PCs symbols file, but it is not very convenient). If an IDN is being used it is most likely the website will also be in the language of the IDN, so effectively restricting its use to geographic areas. For the marketer there are a few applications to consider:
* If your market is local to a region, you could gain brand value by using that region's language
* For a multinational company, websites for different countries could be in the language of each
* You might wish to appeal to expatriates in their native language

The problem with these suggestions is that, as with all forms of segmentation, you take the chance of alienating other potential customers by not using their language - or at least English, which is generally accepted as the world's business language.

poor soccer substitution?
Spotted during the 2006 Football World Cup was Good use of date in the name, but why .tv when it was a website with - it would appear - no affiliation to television? Maybe they were too late to get the .com, .net etc? If that is the case it's a bit like displaying your online marketing shortcomings in public. Given the sport concerned, .net might have been better.

The years 2006 and 2008 saw the launch of the long awaited .eu domain (it had been 'coming soon' since around 1998) and .asia respectively. Although the jury is still out, these domains (and other proposed regional TLDs) might eventually become a 'must have' for global traders based in those areas. It is worth noting that as registrants of .eu names must be registered by a person or company established in a European Union Member State, any transactions on .eu sites are subject to EU laws - something that might be attractive to potential online customers. However, given the shortage of available .com domains and the ever growing number of web users in Asia, the .asia in particular may prove increasingly popular - perhaps one day challenging the mighty .com for registration numbers?

a US domain name, for a European country, in a UK newspaper
The summer of 2006 saw a full page teaser ad in UK Sunday newspaper supplements featuring a small keyhole shape on an otherwise blank page with the text 'romance, especially if you and your partner aren't in groups', and the message 'Visit'. Nice idea to use cross media promotions such as this, and the domain name is good also. So how might I have improved it without adding much to the budget? I'd have also registered - it is a European destination after all. Also, as the text in the newspaper was small and in a hand-written style of font it was easy to misread the URL as - so I would have registered that as well. Note that both extra names would be redirected to the primary site.
I'll make no comment that Europe's best kept secret is, apparently, Belgium - though the ad was actually for Eurostar, the train service.

DotAsia, the not-for-profit registry operator of the new domain was quick to spot an opportunity in the market by auctioning off some of the most popular generic names. It might be a reflection of trade in that region, but two (arguably, three) of the top six auctions were sex-industry related.

The top six, with their purchase price at auction prices were:
1 : $112,111
2 : $83,334
3 : $73,000
4 : $53,607
5 : $46,602
6 : $41,009

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Copyright copyright 2009 Alan Charlesworth. All rights reserved.
International Standard Book Number: 978-1-4452-0538-0
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.
Every effort has been made to make this book as complete and as accurate as possible, but no warranty or fitness is implied. The information provided is on an 'as is' basis. No responsibility is assumed by the author for any injury and/or damage to persons or property as a matter of products liability, negligence or otherwise, or from any use or operation of any methods, products, instructions or ideas contained in the material herein.
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