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The accidentally successful top level domain names

Is there a lesson for new TLDs in the success of .io and .ly?

Over the weekend I was listening to last week’s DNW Podcast again and thinking about Mike Carson’s thoughts on ccTLDs that have taken off compared to new TLDs.

One thing struck me as I thought about this: some of the most used “repurposed” country code top level domain names actually weren’t marketed at all.

Let me explain.

By repurposed, I mean country code domain names that have been adopted by groups that like the extension but have nothing to do with the country. Examples include .io (adopted by tech companies because of the I/O connotation) and .ly (adopted by companies as a sort of domain hack adding -ly to names).

British India Ocean Territory and Libya didn’t set out to make their extensions the next cool thing through a marketing campaign. Instead, companies decided the names were cool.

We’re seeing the same thing with .AI right now.

This is a little bit different from a couple other remarketed domains like .co and .me. In both of these cases, entrepreneurs decided to repurpose the domains and market them. (This might be open to some dispute. I don’t recall if .me was taking off on its own before GoDaddy stepped in to inject marketing muscle behind it.)

Is there a lesson in this for new TLDs? Maybe. I’ve seen some success getting end user adoption through marketing. .Live comes to mind. So seeding a domain with marketing efforts makes sense.

But at the end of the day, you also have to be offering an extension that people want to use.

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  1. brand says

    The problem with some of these is, not all registrars handle the extension and if one is sold it can be hard to transfer.
    Plus like you mentioned in the podcast, it’s the holding cost.
    I believe .ly is close to $100

      • Chatty George says

        The thing is that the “end-users” are not really end-users in these extensions. They are techies that are notoriously horrible at marketing, business acumen, etc….. They start buying into these extensions because it becomes kind of a clubby thing to do. They hear other techies talk about buying a .io, for example, and then they just do that because they can’t think for themselves and correctly navigate through the logic as to why they should or should not buy a .com.

        Can anyone name any mom and pops whatsoever that are not family pages, how to train your cat sites, etc…. that are using any of these extensions ? I have not seen one yet in many years in this business.

        Also, most of these techies and the being forced to buy a .com later on down the road for thousands, hundreds of thousands, and even millions of dollars. This is wasted marketing expenses before having to switch over and for paying dearly for a .com, because at that point the .com owner is already aware of the alternate extension’s success because they are receiving the lion share of the traffic due to server confusion. This is called “traffic leakage” and it makes domain owners countless sums of cash because of someone else’s efforts. I’ve ben making money off these fools for decades now.

  2. Mark Thorpe says

    Some of it has to do with country code domain name extensions are only 2 characters in length and new gTLDs are not.

    Most people have no idea what their country code extension stands for or don’t know that it is a ccTLD, like .co

  3. Mike says

    From a hacker/tech standpoint – .io and .ly were cool because we adopted/repurposed it for ourselves. And some really cool and respected people in our community were using it to build awesome projects and companies. We built a culture around it and made it “ours.”

    In the hacker community it wouldn’t work for a new GTLD to go to a hackathon and offer free domains to the hackers – we would see right through this as a businessy/marketing ploy.

    So I think in order for a new GTLD to do something similar, they would need to get respected people in the community building on it and using it – and, like you said – *wanting* to use it. They have to *actually* make the TLD cool – not just do marketing stuff to try to make it look cool.

    I’m sure it isn’t easy.

    It is a lot easier to be a domain investor and watch and see which TLDs these communities are adopting and using, and then invest in them. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Chatty George says

      “So I think in order for a new GTLD to do something similar, they would need to get respected people in the community building on it and using it โ€“ and, like you said โ€“ *wanting* to use it. They have to *actually* make the TLD cool โ€“ not just do marketing stuff to try to make it look cool.”

      Wrong, you have to make the customers want it, not your buddies or peers, otherwise it’s just a club. Not much different than a forum really.

  4. John M says

    One reason .io took off is because of Mike Carson-period. He’s honest and easy to deal with.

  5. Steve says

    It seems the most successful re-purposed extensions have been: .co (mainly because of the acquisition and aftermarket sales), .me (end-users, and many with large market caps — the .ME registry has had a solid marketing team), .tv (used to be popular. in fact,

    I had an entertainment startup and we used the .TV — will admit some alliances, customers, etc would try to contact us via .com, io — popular with tech companies, ly – more as a domain hack .it — its user base still is mainly focused on Italy, .ai — was just re-purposed a few years ago – prior to that, you needed to be based in Anguilla — has taken off, and a techcrunch article last week highlighted the number of funded startups that have rebranded and/or are using AI in their names – and many with .ai)

    No doubt I’ve left out some other re-purposed extensions, such as .in, to, at…fm….

  6. Steve says

    @Logan — Thanks. That’s the one.


    The link within the techcrunch article reflects some of the AI companies. Not sure why crunchbase doesn’t mention companies, using .ai, that were acquired api.ai (IBM) wit.ai (facebook) and bonsai.ai & bons.ai (which received a major funding round from Microsoft Ventures…

    I believe the extension .ai is appropriate for companies and orgs that provide primarily .AI offerings — so it’s a growing, albeit, limited base. At least for now.

  7. Mark says

    I like the idea of repurposing the domain extention, I took a gamble and have > 100 domain hacks based on .red



    As close to Google’s failed attempt to allow one word (dotless) domains as you can get ๐Ÿ˜‰


  8. Samit says

    Wasn’t .ly banned in the US because the govt didn’t want people doing business w/ Libya?

    .io seems to have done ok exceptional though, .ai has had some recent sales, but it feels too orchestrated since there isn’t any real usage yet.

    Think the breakout re-fashioned cctlds are still .tv, .co and .in.

  9. .CO DNSSEC Domains WI says

    We invested in a few .CO domains in 2010. Our agency decided we were going to develop a couple in 2012. The rest is digital disruption history.

    .CO is an SEO monster, DNSSEC secure and a score rockstar when used with Adwords.

    We dumped most of our .com domains for 500 plus DNSSEC generic .CO domains. Since then we have been out to the Bay Area pitching our discovery.

    Many companies and China have caught onto .CO and are waiting to build keyword .CO websites ahead of the DNSSEC/keyroll in October and the impending “global” ecommerce war from China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative (The Digital Silk Road).

    You don’t strike gold with a .CO until you develop one. I believe .CO domains are worth ten times there value on the brokers market.

    For retail brands… The dominance of voice command keyword search over brand search on a mobile devices that are no bigger than an index card is your kryptonite.

  10. boldplan says

    There are a number of issues with all of these extensions:

    1) How Google really treats them, especially because their use as a country code cannot be underestimated.

    2) The likelihood of them losing traffic to other domains, e.g. .co to .com. Might work for Adwords to some degree but makes no difference for “organic seo”.

    3) The danger that registration, which is generally unregulated, can result in being far more expensive than imagined for renewals. In this regard it’s really important to look at the history of the registrar.

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