Will .COM Be a Thing of the Past? (Rise of Generic Top-Level Domains)

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From .auto to .zero, you may have started seeing some interesting and unconventional domain names popping up here and there. A top-level domain is everything that comes after the dot: the .com in Google.com and the .net in Microsoft.net. But though we're accustomed to seeing only a small assortment of top-level domain names, a large assortment of new domain names have been steadily released in the past two years. Businesses today can purchase domains such as hybridcars.drive or best.realestate; there are now literally hundreds of generic
top - level domains (gTLDs) entering into widespread support by DNS providers. But what are the advantages and disadvantages to such a naming scheme?

The Advantages of the Generic TLD

  • Shorter, more specific domains. Let's face it: there are only so many .com and .net domain names available, and even getting a .net can sometimes feel like winning second place. Generic TLDs give you the opportunity to still claim a short domain name without having to invest in finding the perfect .com. Shorter domain names aren't just attractive; they're better for marketing because they are more easily remembered. Speaking of this...
  • A more direct naming schema. When a user clicks on JohnSmith.attorney, he knows that he will be going to the page of a legal professional. As gTLDs become more commonplace, it will become easier for search results to be sorted by type. This also lends a certain level of authority to the website. Users today almost always trust .org addresses over .com addresses even though there are no particular requirements for a .org site. 
  • Better SEO. Websites get a boost from search engines if their URL is an exact match for a search query; if a user searches for "cheap hotels" then "cheaphotels.com" will carry some significant weight. But cheaphotels.com is far more likely to be taken than a more recent gTLD such as cheap.hotels or hotels.cheap. It should also be noted that Google is moving towards deprecating the boost that websites get from having an exact matching domain name, but presently it is still in effect.

The Potential Pitfalls When Dealing With Generic TLDs

Of course, nothing comes without a cost. Generic top - level domains may sound fantastic on paper, but there are a few issues that are presently holding them back. Most notably -- no one knows what they are. Users are so accustomed to seeing ".com," ".net," and ".org" domains that they may actually be suspicious when they encounter a gTLD that they've never used before. They may even refuse to visit the website at all. This is an issue that's likely to be resolved as time passes and people become more familiar with the technology; until then it can be a risky gambit.

And there is the fact that many generic TLDs are just that -- generic. While you may be able to snag petstores.online, you'll also have to deal with the fact that your URL no longer properly reflects your organization's branding. It'll be up to you regarding whether your SEO or your brand identity is more important. There's a reason why McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Jack in the Box aren't in three way negotiations for "fastfood.com." When you take away the ability to create more generic domain names some of the advantages of a gTLD are lost. 

Generic TLDs are very likely to become more popular in the coming years -- there is simply an upper limit on how many domain names can be acquired with conventional top-level domains. In the past, adoption  has been limited by the fact that unique TLDs were often unsupported by domain name servers. Now that a standardized, supported list of generic TLDs has come out, it's likely that the popularity of these domain names will quickly spread, especially among the younger generations. 

 

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Sarah Hayes

Project Manager at 21 Handshake, a strategic marketing company, driven to grow relationship-driven businesses. A self described life long learner that thrives on detail, I love bringing these skills to the table to help others succeed.

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