What will different TLDs connote in naming a site for an art project?
November 25, 2009 5:01 AM   Subscribe

How serious are the connotations of .com and .net TLDs, and which should I choose for an art project?

My friend says I shouldn't go with mngoartproject.com because it implies commerce, and she uses .net herself because it seems neutral to her. To me it still connotes "network related," though I know it's used all the time just when .com isn't available. And .org would feel dishonest to me.

I've read this and related questions, and all the opinion that comes up at the front of a simple google search on the meaning of TLDs is from companies that want my business, and anyway what matters to me is the meanings that a smart group of people would associate with my site based on the TLD. (Bonus points if anyone can suggest a good non-commercial source for newbie basic info about things as simple as how to do a redirect).

Info: I'm in the US, the art project is decidedly non-commercial, and I'm already holding both .com and .net names for it--the question is which to use.
posted by Mngo to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
Honestly, I would buy both and redirect to .net

But that's just me.

I've had a .org that's neither an organization or commercial for about 7 years.
posted by TomMelee at 5:05 AM on November 25, 2009

I have always felt that .com is just the default choice, and .net is usually where you go when you couldn't get ahold of the .com you wanted. Go with the .com.

We should also get your friend's opinion about this plate of beans I have here.
posted by daniel striped tiger at 5:07 AM on November 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'd buy both or just use .com. If you go for .net (particularly .net alone), there's a good chance that non-computer savvy users will have trouble finding you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:09 AM on November 25, 2009

I have always felt that .com is just the default choice, and .net is usually where you go when you couldn't get ahold of the .com you wanted. Go with the .com.

Exactly. (And I'm not American.)
posted by ceri richard at 5:09 AM on November 25, 2009

I vote for .net, which I think is more aesthetically pleasing than .com, as well as implying non-commercial.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:25 AM on November 25, 2009

Personally, for an art project I'd host the site on a .org and get the .com pointing to the .org. I'd ignore the .net (but for $8pa you could probably afford buy that and point it to the .org too).

You've got the .org which signifies the non-profitness of your site, and the .com diverting to it to catch any visitors that have automatically typed .com because that's what they're used to.

A redirect is very easy to do in most registrars, but it varies between different ones. If you tell us which registrar you're using I could probably help on that.
posted by sid.tv at 5:37 AM on November 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

There are definitely still some people who come to a .com site and figure it must be a commercial venture of some sort. Most people however, realize that the original intended meanings of the primary TLDs have been long defunct.

You should definitely make sure that the .com points to whichever domain you end up using. As for whether the final domain should be .net or .org, it's really just a matter of which set of letters you find aesthetically pleasing.

As others have said, buy all three and point the two you don't use to the one you do. It's not like domain names are expensive.
posted by 256 at 7:18 AM on November 25, 2009

Choosing .net for a non-network company will rile internet geeks. I wouldn't do it, but then again, I let that constituency rule other parts of my life too.

Why would a .org feel dishonest, and not .net?
posted by galaksit at 7:21 AM on November 25, 2009

Thanks for all the great thoughts.

I think a .org would feel dishonest because i'm not an organization and not a "real" non-profit--I'm an artist but there's no .art.
But I think I might rather rile the not-for-profit geeks than the internet geeks, and maybe if I'm buying all three anyway .org is the best "face" for this kind of thing, which does involve multiple people and logistics and is sort of connected to political movements.

My registrar is NearlyFreeSpeach and I'm considering also hosting with them. Right now the project is supported just by a wordpress.com blog, and at the very least I'll be making the domain redirect to that.

Thanks again.
posted by Mngo at 7:53 AM on November 25, 2009

I would choose .org too. I suppose I take the view that anyone or anything can portray themselves as an organization because it's such a vague concept anyway, and that .org is usually taken to mean "non-commercial" more than "non-profit organisation with certain properties and legal standing in a certain jurisdiction".
posted by galaksit at 8:31 AM on November 25, 2009

Is the focus of your site selling stuff? Then go with the .com. Otherwise, get a .org. Does your art project have anything to do with internet infrastructure? If not, don't use .net.

Of course, none of those TLD's are restricted, so you can use whatever you want. Maybe buy all three and point to the .org.
posted by paulg at 8:53 AM on November 25, 2009

And, in case anyone is curious, the RFC that officially answers this question is RFC 1591, which says:

COM - This domain is intended for commercial entities, that is companies. [...]

ORG - This domain is intended as the miscellaneous TLD for organizations that didn't fit anywhere else. [...]

NET - This domain is intended to hold only the computers of network providers, that is the NIC and NOC computers, the administrative computers, and the network node computers. The customers of the network provider would have domain names of their own (not in the NET TLD).

posted by paulg at 8:58 AM on November 25, 2009

There are plenty of personal sites that use .org domains, and even some for-profit companies like Craigslist and Slashdot. I don't think you have anything to worry about.
posted by teraflop at 9:38 AM on November 25, 2009

I design websites for artists and academic projects, and my sense is that the original meanings of the TLDs became irrelevant long ago. Certainly many people have no idea about what ".com" means, except that it is the most frequently encountered and thus the easiest to remember (this is key: easiest to remember). I suggest using .com whenever possible.

Think of it this way: your project, business, organization, whatever is named Foozle. If you own foozle.net, you will also want to own foozle.com if possible, because otherwise someone else could come along and snatch it up, somewhat undermining your identity as the primary Foozle on the web. But if your primary identity is at foozle.com, you don't really have to worry about what is at foozle.net, because it's pretty much irrelevant. Dot-com has an undeniable precedence and cachet, and my sense is that it the more watered down the TLD pool becomes, the more important ".com" will be. Who wants .name or .biz (or .art, if it existed)?

TLDs may have been intended to convey meaning, but in reality they rarely do, except a sort of pecking order of .com, .net, .org, etc.
posted by oulipian at 10:51 AM on November 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

Thanks again, everyone. I've marked four as "best," but really all the datapoints are useful in thinking about perceptions. I love that text from paulg, thanks, and oulipian, your reasoning makes a lot of sense to me, except that I think in my world .org isn't exactly lower on the pecking order, and I like that it signifies non-.com.

For now I'm going to keep .com and point it at .org. I'm open to further persuasion but I have a printing deadline coming up. (Next I have to decide whether it's time to self-host my blog on an expanded site at nearlyfreespeech, or leave it at wordpress.com for a while--but I guess I'll have to wait a week to figure that one out...).

I really appreciate all the responses and I think you've filled a niche in the askme KB with both information and useful opinion.
posted by Mngo at 11:30 AM on November 25, 2009

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