It’s been three decades since the first .com was registered, now the “gold standard” of domain names. Back then there was no Google, no Facebook and no Twitter.
The Internet was largely a place for Western academics with nowhere near the reach it has today.
But as the 3oth .com birthday is celebrated today March 15, it’s estimated that about 115 million have been registered.
“Thirty years and a lot has changed since the first domains were registered,” says GoDaddy Senior Vice President and General Manager of Domains Mike McLaughlin.
In a phone conversation with Small Business Trends, McLaughlin took us back to that time.
“It’s 1985 and most of us don’t even know what the Internet is,” he explains. “Fast forward and it has become integral to the fabric of humanity.”
In fact, as recently as 1994, even major broadcasters like Bryant Gumbel still seemed confused by the concept. Remember this famous broadcast when Gumbel asked the fateful question, “What is Internet, anyway?”
30th .Com Birthday and All the Good Names Are Taken
But as we celebrate the 30th .com birthday, a major transformation has occurred. Today an estimated 280 million websites have been registered — not all of them on the .com domain, of course.
And by far, the group most driving this interest in domains is no longer academics, McLaughlin notes. It’s small businesses.
Of the roughly 23 million small businesses in the United States, only about half have a Web presence today, McLaughlin said.
GoDaddy, which says it is the world’s largest domain registrar, sees these small businesses and about 200 million more around the world as its primary customer base.
The company offers not only domain names but also hosting services, its Website Builder tool, email services and even WordPress management services. McLaughlin says that WordPress is now the most popular content management system on the company’s servers.
The trouble is that, as more and more .coms are registered, most of the good names, at least in English, have been taken. And that’s certainly true of the names that would most help you define your market.
(Sorry, auto mechanics, Autoshop.com is already spoken for. And buying the most sought after of these second-hand could run into the hundreds of thousands or even millions, McLaughlin adds.)
One solution small businesses have turned to as the .com names run out is to use other domains like .net, .biz or .org.
“Some of the reason is because they couldn’t get the name they wanted,” McLaughlin says. “Or it might be to expand your online presence.”
Another option is the use of nation domains like .us.
But with the celebration of the 30th .com birthday, a new option is also opening up for small businesses. And it may change the level of personalization these business owners are able to build into their brands in the future.
New Names Add Local and Interest-Specific Flavor
Last year, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the non-profit tasked with managing unique addresses on the Internet, began rolling out an additional 700 Generic Top Level Domains.
The first of these was introduced in February last year and already, an estimated 4 million have been registered.
The new names offer more potential personalization than the old, McLaughlin says.
There are interest-based domain names. So far, they include: .photography, .bike, .clothing, .science, .property, .attorney. (Hey, if you own a bike shop, are you sure you want a .com?)
There are also geographic names … even down to the city where you’re based. Names like .berlin, .hamburg, and .tokyo are now available. These names, too, show the increased global character of the Internet, McLaughlin says.
Some of the geographic names are “open,” meaning you don’t need to have a Las Vegas or London address to register a .vegas or .london domain name.
But to register a .nyc domain name, McLaughlin notes, you must have a business located within the five boroughs. (Note to Manhattan entrepreneurs: rent office space on the Lower East Side for out-of-town businesses in need of a local address.)
.Web Could be the New .Com
Finally there are a group of generic names like .email, .guru, .expert, .club, and .company.
And, as of now, only about half of the planned new domains have been rolled out with more to come. There are even a few coming that McLaughlin predicts might become as popular as .com someday. How would you like a new .web or .blog domain?
“We’re now in the process of introducing a whole group of new domain names onto the market,” McLaughlin explains.
For now .com remains, by far, the most popular, he says. But who knows? The future of the .com may not include a .com at all.
30th Birthday Cupcake Photo via Shutterstock
With such a saturation of .com sites, the important thing is to find new ways to make your site stand out above the crowd.
Nicely summed up. The new domain endings do offer a serious alternative to a saturated .com. We can see from the declining numbers of .us, .biz, .net etc. that domain owners are jumping ship. Don’t get me wrong. .com will remain king for a long time (or forever), but the new extensions can be really powerful.