There was a time when the internet was nothing but .com, .net, and .org, but in 2008 ICANN announced they were opening applications to new top-level domains (TLDs) to everyone (with the $185,000 application fee). Since then the number of available TLDs have grown into the hundreds, with options like .law, .fashion, and even .xxx But while these domains are available, you don’t see them often. Will new top-level domains every catch on?
The New Top-Level Domains
There are now countless TLDs available but despite the wide range available, we’ve yet to see them really catch on. You might see a few from time to time but we have yet to have any large company be successful with them.
Here are a few things holding them back.
Lack Of Familiarity and Trust
While those working in the online world may be aware of these new domain options, the general public isn’t. Even for those of us that are aware of them, there’s a lack of trust with most. “Why are they using .nachos instead of .com?” Trust goes a long way to getting people to visit a site.
Because we don’t trust these new TLDs, we’re unlikely to click them in search results. Google interprets the lack of clicks as a ranking signal and lowers the rank of a site when it’s not being selected in search. This leads to less of these new domains showing in search results.
Even if you do manage to rank well with one, your competitors with .com domains are more likely to get clicks due to higher trust in their addresses. Why put yourself at a disadvantage just because of your domain?
In addition to lack of clicks from search, the questionable trust we put in these domains means we’re less likely to link to sources from such domains. With less backlinks, it becomes much harder for these sites to rank in Google search. This further impacts their ability to become familiar with the searching public, landing another blow to their ability to become trusted.
They also look strange when received in emails, leading to even more mistrust. What kind of spammer would use a firstname.lastname@example.org? It’s simply something we’re not use to seeing, be it on the web or in email.
Lack Of Successful Businesses With New TLDs
Plenty are using these new domain options but we have yet to see any big companies doing so successfully. We know big names like Facebook, Amazon, and Apple by their .com Can you name a big name .news or .realty? Doubtful.
It’s hard to gain the public trust for these domains if none of the well-known names are using them.
While we have seen some successful startups using new TLDs to start, they almost always switch to a .com when they have they grow larger and have the money to purchase their desired .com This again prevents them from becoming known as a legitimate domain option in the eye of the public.
The Impact To The Public
So how are the public impacted by not trusting new TLDs? They aren’t really at this point.
You’re searching for something on Google and you come across result #2 with a strange .information domain. Untrusting of it, you go with the more familiar .com in result #3. You get the information you need and all is well.
So what was the impact? Nothing really. While result #2 may have provided you with slightly better information or experience, you still got what you needed. You may have had to put in more work but you don’t know that so you aren’t out anything, as far as you’re aware.
And that’s why there’s no real negative impact for the public when they skip the results they deem to be from questionable domains. They’re none the wiser that there may have been a negative impact from doing such and the fact that they still got what they needed means they’re likely to do the same in the future (plus as covered above, the fact they opted not to click that new TLD result means it’s less and less likely to be displayed in search results in the future).
So what does this mean for those looking at acquiring a new domain name?
Domain Buying Advice
For those buying domain names, it’s best to stick to the .com While the new TLDs makes it easier to get the short and sweet domain you want, the drawbacks are just too many.
A less-than desirable .com is still better than a great new TLD in almost every case. You can always look to buy the domain name of your dreams once your business grows big enough and has the financial means to do so.
These new domains can still be useful for shortening services like custom Bitly links. Custom shortened links on social media have been shown to increase CTR by up to 34%, according to a study by Bitly. Brandly (another shortener service) showed a 39% increase in CTR in their study. Though I’d take it with a grain of salt that these companies who sell shortening services found that their service increases clicks, the fact both have similar results to their studies makes it seem a bit more trustworthy. If you can get a cool shortened version of your company/site name to be used with Twitter and in emails, it’s certainly worth registering.
Hooked But Not Caught
Though the availability of new TLDs has seen explosive growth since ICANN opened the option 10 years ago, it’s clear that these new domains just aren’t catching on. The web browsing public simply doesn’t trust them and that lack of trust has kept them from becoming common.
The .com is still king. While you may have to settle for an address that isn’t ideal, at least you’ll avoid the issues that currently come with alternative TLDs. And just in case they do catch on in the future, feel free to register and sit on a few new domains until that time. There’s no harm in having them.