Does the dot suffix of a website's name matter?
May 22, 2013 4:01 PM   Subscribe

How important is having a .com suffix to the perceived legitimacy of a website? How does it affect traffic/success, etc? Does holding onto .com as the ideal make sense in this world of domain squatters? Can we make a list of good and bad choices?
posted by letstrythis to Computers & Internet (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't think it matters much in terms of legitimacy unless it's for an established business entity that people perceive to be of sufficient enough size that the company should be able to afford or think of a .com domain.

However in all cases it might matter in terms of people remembering how to get to the site (they might type .com instead of the correct suffix).
posted by Dansaman at 4:26 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


.info has been useful for a lot of projects I have done and is easy to remember. I live in England but find that most people, if they can help it, tend to remember a few basic domains more than .co.uk, being: .com, .info, .org, and, .net.
posted by parmanparman at 4:27 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I recommend that my clients come up with an available .com domain. If they use "widgets.info", a lot of people will try to use "widgets.com" anyway and not find their site. Of course those are the relatively few individuals who know how do use a url directly in the address bar. I'm constantly bemused and befuddled at how many people type a full url into the google search or have no idea what the address bar is.

By the way these are called Top Level Domains rather than "dot suffix".
posted by humboldt32 at 4:34 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Top Level Domain. Gotcha. Great feedback, thanks! I like the sound of .info.

It's mostly searching, bookmarks, and links (right?) that will get you there anyway, but it would be nice to have something that doesn't scream "seventh choice!" once you arrive at my Top Level Domain.
posted by letstrythis at 4:48 PM on May 22, 2013


I am a web master. IANYWM. I registered the .com suffix for the non-profit website that I run simply so that nobody could hijack it and post porn there (also so that nobody could get pissed at us and post a "I hate [non-profit-name] .org" site. That alone can ruin the legitimacy of your otherwise-cool domain-name. Other than that... does it matter? It all depends on your marketing budget. A good marketing budget can make a winner out of a stinking lousy domain - even one that's not "top level".
posted by brownrd at 4:51 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


A lot depends on how web savvy your target audience is. "dot com" is the ideal, partly because it's what everybody thinks of when they think of a website. For word of mouth, dot com is where it's at.

Granted, that hasn't stopped craigslist or wikipedia.

If the site in question is going to be Huuuuuuuuuuuge in terms of traffic, it won't matter. The smaller the site, in my opinion, the more it matters - unless the site is strictly for you and a few friends, in which case, it doesn't matter at all.
posted by 2oh1 at 5:17 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here are the most popular websites with ".net" and ".info". I only recognize a few; how about you?

People understand .com, .edu, .org, and .gov. Web-savvy people understand .ly, .cc, .me, etc. Worldy people understand .co.uk and its friends. But .net and .info have no clearly identified meaning, and many people probably associate them with weird spammy experiences more than anything else.

It also depends on the type of site you're creating. If you're creating a small, specific site with a lot of great content, then I don't think it matters. But if you're trying to sell something on your site, you might have a hard time coming across as legitimate.
posted by acidic at 5:34 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


.info has a negative connotation to me, along with .biz, since they're both favorites of people who run spammy/disreputable websites. Using .com can help a website sound "normal" and reliable.
posted by dreamyshade at 5:35 PM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Much, much less than it use to be. If you can grab the .com address, do so. If you can't, don't read too much into that. Here's an article by Evan Williams on that topic. He would know more than most:

Five Reasons Domains Are Getting Less Important

Long story short: the name is more important than the suffix. The success of your site will not depend on the suffix.

I am a web master.

I have not heard that term used in many years. It's like being transported back to 2005 in a time machine. :)


posted by justgary at 6:13 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a reasonably web savvy consumer, I would expect any legitimate for-profit business to have a .com (or co.uk, or the international equivalent), and any legitimate nonprofit to have a .org. And of course, .gov and .edu are also legitimate, specialized domains.

I would be slightly to very skeptical of any other domain ending. There are of course established exceptions, like last.fm, but that's not the rule - even bit.ly redirects to bitly.com these days (and lastfm.com redirects to last.fm). There are a few .net websites that are legitimate and I visit, but I have actually wondered why those sites didn't pick a .com domain.

I personally think that it's worth changing a website's name a little bit in order to get a .com. For example, my own blog used to be at projectswatch.blogspot.com; when I wanted to move to my own domain, projectswatch.com was taken, so I chose to move to project-swatch.com rather than picking projectswatch.net or something else.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:31 PM on May 22, 2013


If I see a .info or a .biz or whatever, I assume it's just a content mill and not a real website. I was looking for a restaurant's menu online the other day and it was a .biz (which surprised me, which is why I remembered it), but it was clearly the restaurant's website with a menu, photos, directions and contact info, so that was a little difficult as it was my different destination. But if I searching around and I stumble upon a weird-ending URL, I will probably ignore the site.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:20 PM on May 22, 2013


I'm a web developer - I'm not your web developer.

.com, .net., and .org are all top-level domains (TLD's) - they're the ones people recognize. While not every .com is a commercial project, that is what the mass media shared with the world some years ago. Craigslist can get away with a .org since they've been around forever and their brand name is rock-stable.

Everything else (including .info, .tv, .biz) screams 'I'm just trying to get into the gold rush 5 years too late.' Google doesn't value these domains as highly (anecdotal evidence, of course), and they're really rather gimmicky IMHO.

If your brand name is distinctive, there's a fair chance the .com, .net, or .org is available - go with it. If it's taken, use the Whois information to send them an e-mail - especially if they're not using it for anything.
posted by chrisinseoul at 11:06 PM on May 22, 2013


I personally think that it's worth changing a website's name a little bit in order to get a .com. For example, my own blog used to be at projectswatch.blogspot.com; when I wanted to move to my own domain, projectswatch.com was taken, so I chose to move to project-swatch.com rather than picking projectswatch.net or something else.

With all due respect to the writer of this comment, this is bad advice. Avoid domain names with hyphens. If the dot com is gone, and you can buy the dot net, do it. A dot net name without a hyphen is much better than a dot come with. I promise you that most startups don't even consider a hyphened name. Again, the name is more important than the suffix.

Just to clarify my earlier comments, I'm not saying that you shouldn't try to find a great domain name. And there's no doubt that some suffixes are better than others. Dot Biz, as an example, is probably something I'd avoid. But that's changing, and as more and more domains are added, and the dot comes are taken, the suffix will matter even less.

- the name is more important than the suffix
- try to find something easy to remember, say, write down.

Someone mentioned emailing the owner of a dot com if you want the domain name. Good advice. But don't be suckered into paying more than you want. The advantages of a dot come over a dot net are almost nonexistent. If your service, or product, or writing, is in demand, people will find you no matter the suffix.

I'll shut up now.
posted by justgary at 5:24 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I defer to justgary about the hyphen issue - he clearly knows more than I do!
posted by insectosaurus at 6:27 AM on May 23, 2013


The integration of search into the URL bar of browsers has made it matter less and less, but .net and .info are still regarded as a bit of the "TLD ghetto" when you're a company staking its web presence.

If you're a web-only property, it's fine to incorporate a TLD like .ly as long as it's part of your name.
posted by mkultra at 7:15 AM on May 23, 2013


I don't think it matters anymore. The Digital Public Library of America just launched with the URL dp.la.
posted by LarryC at 7:25 AM on May 23, 2013


It totally matters. You don't want people remembering your domain name, typing it in, and getting to somebody else's website. If memorability weren't key, we'd all be typing in IP addresses.

I've owned the [my full name].net domain for years -- because, yes, the .com was taken -- and I always have to remind people not to send email to the .com, and still often catch them writing down ".com" even while I'm in the middle of explaining to them that it's ".net". It's just muscle memory for a lot of people to automatically type .com at the end of every address.

This is also why you want to avoid hyphens or other unmemorable variations on an existing name. And it's why weird TLDs are okay when they're memorably built into the name (script.aculo.us or bit.ly or last.fm or delicio.us (but note that that last one is now a redirect to delicious.com.)

Five Reasons Domains Are Getting Less Important
Ev's a smart guy but I disagree with just about all of his reasoning here. 1) Trusting Google autocomplete only works if you're already a Big Deal on the web. If you're already a Big Deal, people already remember your name. 2) Address bar autocomplete only works if the user is already a user of your site; as with #1 I think he's got the egg and the chicken in the wrong order here. 3) Hidden address bars make it more important for the user to be able to remember your address, not less, because they won't have a visible reminder there all the time. 4) Apps, schmapps; tea in china, price of. And his examples in 5) demonstrate the exact opposite of what he's saying it does: facebook.com isn't thefacebook.com anymore; dropbox.com isn't getdropbox.com anymore; basecamphq.com is now at basecamp.com. If the domain didn't matter, they wouldn't have bothered to change them.
posted by ook at 7:45 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a lot of experience in the web world (web development for over 10 years, my own startup, friends' and family's startups, etc), and I second everyone who said dot-com is very, very important. People simply do not hear anything but ".com", even people who are technically savvy and detail-oriented and acutely interested in the website you are telling them about.

A few exceptions:

1. Europeans tend to do better because they are already used to typing things like dot-co-dot-uk.

2. Dot-org in non-profit situations tends to do well (although still not perfect).

3. Google filters search results based on user's location, so you would do well with a ".mn" if you wanted to capture locals in Mongolia.

4. If you have a business that's driven by keyword campaigns, you may do well with a long, dash-separated domain name with dot-whatever (although google is cracking down on these).

Anyone who says dot-coms are not an order of magnitude better only needs to look at the domain marketplace.

As an example, I just did an online estimate for a domain name that I am familiar with (so I know there is no current traffic that could affect the estimate) and I'd say this is pretty accurate:

com .... $530
net ..... $60
org ..... $35
biz ..... $5
info .... $10
posted by rada at 8:26 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm the webmaster for a non-profit organization/convention with a .org domain name, and we had a rival organization buy our .com domain and point it to their own site. Luckily, after a shitstorm in the community, it's now pointing to us (although we haven't yet got the owner to hand it over; I really need to get on our director's back about that).

You can bet your bottom dollar I registered the .net version and pointed it to our site the moment I found out what had happened.
posted by telophase at 8:53 AM on May 23, 2013


.biz and .tv, fairly or unfairly, mean SEO and spam to me. To the point where I will not click links to them in google results. They're almost always a shit page dynamically generated in response to my search term that merely repeats my search in affiliated-spammer-space.
posted by ctmf at 11:09 AM on May 23, 2013


I honestly don't ever visit .info or .biz sites that come up in links or search results. I assume they're spamfarms.
posted by Jairus at 11:15 AM on May 23, 2013


.io has been gaining a lot of traction in the developer community for projects.*

Though, it wasn't until a few weeks ago that Google recognized it as a "generic" TLD. Before when searching .io results would be near dead-last due to Google thinking they were sites for the Indian Ocean Territory.

*Only because I/O means Input/Output in technical terms, hence the uptick with developers/programming.
posted by wcfields at 2:10 PM on May 23, 2013


With well reasoned opinions on both sides, it seems there is a majority consensus favoring .com above all others. Thanks, several smart people!
posted by letstrythis at 10:02 AM on May 24, 2013


The OP had marked the best answer and I didn't want to take over the thread so I bookmarked this question to return to at a later time. I forgot about it and it's about to expire so I'll just put in my 2 cents for future readings of this question.

The OP asked "How important is having a .com suffix to the perceived legitimacy of a website? How does it affect traffic/success, etc?".

While the type of site would be nice to know, the overall answer with the rarest of exceptions is the same: None.

Tech site? Zero. One of the most trafficked apple websites is a .net. He didn't worry that he didn't own the .com. Because it doesn't matter. Web services, app sites, tech opinion... use all sorts of tlds, many obscure. With most good .coms taken it's almost rare to hear of a new .com on the tech side.

Personal site? Zero. If people want to find you or read your opinions they will. Info site? Not a bit. Using .info won't hurt you in any way. You have important info, people will come.

A site for selling shoes? This type site still generally uses a .com. But that's changing quickly.

As a quick side note, using an appraisal service to show any worth to a URL is a fools game. Their entire existence is based on URLs having value (no value in URLs means appraisal services aren't needed). And many appraisal services also sell domains. I think the problem with that scenario is clear.

I have several domains that I periodically allow to expire, only to buy them again on impulse. Every time I allow one to expire they're immediately listed for sale for 1000s of dollars. If I buy the domain again I wait until it's back down to 10 bucks. The vast majority of domains have no inherent value. Only the top domains, long since gone, are worth anything substantial. These resellers are hoping a sucker comes along.

A well know, Internet famous web entrepreneur who has created and sold several well known business's recently stated on a podcast that spending money on a URL was like "setting money on fire". He claimed there was no worse way to spend money.

If you want a .com and have money to burn, great. And even I would avoid .biz. But just about everything you do will be more important than your domain name.

If the talent, info, service, product you're selling is wanted, your domain name won't matter a bit.

Use of social media is far more important than your URL, and most people use google instead of knowing the URL anyway. That's not a new development.

And recently Google even experimented with hiding URLs completely in Chrome. Anyone that can't see the writing on the wall simply isn't paying attention.

With all due respect to Rada, when she says having a .com is "very, very important" she is simply very wrong. The importance of having a com. is almost non-existent, and vanishing more every day.
posted by justgary at 7:12 PM on May 21, 2014


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