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Do You Really Need a .Com?

Switching to a different domain name extension could give you a better URL--and some valuable visibility.
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I have a singer-songwriter friend who calls himself "The Acoustic Lounge Lizard." One day someone asked him why. "It was a URL I could get," he explained.

If you've started a business any time in the last 15 to 20 years, you've probably struggled with the same issue. There's the-name-you-wish-you-could-have.com but you can't have it because someone else already does. There's the-stupidly-long-name-no-one-will-remember.com but no one will remember it. Or, there's the-weird-made-up-word-no-one-grabbed-yet.com. That last category is what gave us Qwikster and other horrible company names, and it seems to be the less-than-ideal solution most young companies settle for.

There has to be a better way.

It's time to give up the notion that every respectable business must have ".com" at the end of its domain. Not using .com can seem like business suicide to me and others who've spent decades around the Web (and no one's going to fight me for mindazetlin.com). But times are changing and, like everything else about the Internet, what we thought we knew turns out not to be so true after all.

The days of .com dominance will be coming to an end shortly, says Juan Diego Calle, founder of .CO, a Miami-based company that's negotiated with the Colombian government to sell .co domains to hosting companies such as GoDaddy and 1&1. That's because the number of domain extensions is about to get a whole lot bigger as ICANN, the agency that oversees these things, releases 1,400 new extensions this year. About half relate to existing organizations (think .microsoft). The rest will be available to small businesses and individuals, and there are a lot of good reasons to consider using one:

You can get the domain name you want.

At least, maybe. If you run an orchard, pick-your-own.apple won't work because the .apple extension has already been claimed by a large technology firm. But with extensions from .pizza to .horse coming soon, there's every chance you can find something that's short, expresses your brand, and hasn't already been snatched by someone else.

It won't hurt your search ranking.

The top search engines, including Google with its huge market dominance, are reportedly adjusting their algorithms so that the new domain extensions won't be penalized. They claim that websites with the new extensions will rank just as well as the more traditional ones, depending on all the things they usually measure, such as inbound links, fresh content, page titles, and so on.

You'll get a lot more for your money.

That's the real attraction of non .com domain names. With traditional extensions, once you register your domain, you won't hear from them again until it's time to renew. Not so with .co and perhaps other domains as well. Extensions such as .restaurant might naturally bring you into a community of others who do what you do. And the domain itself may come with some extra perks.

That's the case for companies using .co, Calle says. His company has already created an online community and hosted dinners for .co domain users. Some are getting serious promotional help. I talked to Calle at last week's TheNextWeb conference in New York City and he wasn't there alone. .CO had brought along 10 start-ups using .co the extension and given them their own exhibit tables at the conference.

Try getting that kind of support with your .com.

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IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Oct 11, 2013

MINDA ZETLIN | Columnist | Co-author, 'The Geek Gap'

Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and speaker, co-author of The Geek Gap, and former president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Like this post? Sign up here for a once-a-week email and you'll never miss her columns.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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