The domain name game

By: Martin Read

Date: 22 July 2010

Sorry if I seem a bit out of breath, but apparently I can order my “.co” domain TODAY, so obviously I've been hurrying while stocks last.

Yes, you read that right – “.co”, not the far more cumbersome “.co.uk”. It’s been the country domain for Columbia, but for some reason anyone can now buy a “.co” to add to their collection of top level domains (TLDs).

To me it just looks like the first half of an aborted “.co.uk”, but the company selling it seemed very keen. I've been warned that if I wait, my very own “.co” may be taken by domain name squatters whose only intention is to slowly kill my business with their evil, squatty ways.

Here we go again

Do we really have to go through this? Whenever a new TLD comes on the market it feels like I'm being held to ransom. It was bad enough juggling “.co.uk”, “.com”, “.net”, “.org”, “.org.uk” and / or “.uk.com”.

Then they came up with “.biz” (which just looks wrong to me), “.eu” (for that chic, continental vibe), “.name” (so I could protect my, you know, name) and ".mobi", (for mobile-enabled sites apparently, although surely short of a couple of crucial characters).

What’s next, “.cockney”, sold with warnings about how I might miss out on the lucrative pearly king demographic? Or “.cheese”, sold on the promise that I’ll reach hitherto untapped markets of dairy enthusiasts?

A load of old gubbins

I’m not sure how any of this helps small businesses. You can add all the domain extensions you like, but if the “.com” or “.co.uk” variant has gone, surely all you'll do with the others is set them to direct customers to your original site?

For big businesses and multinationals it certainly does make sense: they have to protect their brands across boundaries. But while small firms would also benefit from that belt and braces approach, just how practical is it to buy and manage 20 or more variants of a name?

Surely when the owner of gubbins.com wants to get closer to his market, he could use gubbinshealthspa.com (or whatever). In so doing he could separate himself from all the other Gubbinses but retain an established, recognisable TLD.

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