The very first websites launched in the mid-1980s all featured the .com domain, and the abbreviation for a company has remained enduringly popular ever since. In the World Wide Web’s early years that was understandable, given that .com was the only non-geographic TLD identifying a business.
Of course, things have changed since then. The evolution began twenty years ago when industry regulator ICANN was created to bring order to a chaotic marketplace. ICANN recognized the overwhelming demand for .com addresses and attempted to reduce spiraling fees by launching alternative domains. The .biz and .pro TLDs were launched in 2001, while 2014 heralded over two hundred new gTLDs including .company and .business. These cheap domains helped reduce pressure on .com, providing greater choice and preventing practices like cybersquatting.
Sink or swim
Many of ICANN’s post-millennial TLDs are way more specific than .com. In 2015, over a hundred TLDs reached the market, including .download and .dog. You’d be forgiven for not recognizing either of these – many new TLDs approved by ICANN are launched to little fanfare and promptly sink without trace. Some (including .top and .men) have effectively been adopted by spammers, making them highly inadvisable for legitimate businesses. And given the suspicion directed towards unfamiliar TLDs, it’s perhaps understandable that nobody wants .sucks or .foo to suffix their new website. The latter was intended to act as a repository for websites in beta, but uptake has been negligible.
Newer domains face several obstacles. First, 46% of the world’s websites have a .com TLD, so people instinctively type .com into browser bars, so other domains could confuse them. Second, consumers are suspicious of unfamiliar TLDs for fear of a fraudulent site – and it takes roughly ten years for a new TLD to achieve mainstream acceptance. Third, niche domains like .skin or .wine don’t give a brand room to diversify in the future. And fourth, a niche domain sometimes implies the .com domain was already taken, necessitating the adoption of cheap domains as a substitute measure.
The price is right
At WestHost, we market over 150 different TLDs. Yet we recognize that .com remains the gold standard by which every other domain is judged. When you search for available web addresses on our homepage .com appears first, because many customers express a preference for it. And thanks to ICANN’s democratization of the industry, .com is increasingly one of the cheap domains in our list of available TLDs. Its original price premium has largely evaporated, making this a genuinely affordable option.
So if .com is universally recognized, affordable and widely trusted, why would you consider another gTLD? Perhaps for one of the following reasons:
- You want a short domain to boost recall and avoid typing errors. Extra characters heighten the risk of 404 errors, and buynew.tires is shorter than buynewtires.com.
- You want to spell out a brand using a TLD, like storingallyour.data.
- A different company has already acquired the .com you want, which commonly happens with generic words such as Nova and Astra.
- Your website isn’t a company platform – it might be a not-for-profit, a community resource or an advice/information portal.
- You want to identify with a particular location using a TLD like .nyc or .vegas.
To answer the question in this article’s title, .com remains the optimal website domain, 33 years after its first deployment. But today’s plethora of cheap domains provides effective alternatives when used appropriately. WestHost has chosen to market just 150 of the 1,000+ TLDs currently in existence, ensuring our customers won’t make a bad choice when registering a new website…