Buying a .org but not the .com
October 1, 2007 12:50 PM   Subscribe

It is a commonly held belief that enough Internet users foolishly expect every Internet domain to end in ".com", it would be a mistake to purchase and promote a domain ending in ".org" unless one can also purchase the corresponding domain in the ".com" TLD to redirect these foolish Internet users to the proper URL. Is there any statistical evidence that there are so many foolish Internet users out that that this is a necessary practice? Or is this merely unsubstantiated myth?
posted by Plutor to Computers & Internet (26 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
In the real world, in my experience trying to direct people to various .org sites over the years, it is *very* *very* common that most users (i.e. normal people and not tech-y types) assume all web sites end in .com

Back when I worked customer service for a an ISP it was also a very frequent issue.
posted by Jezztek at 1:00 PM on October 1, 2007


Given the very low cost of buying the .com and redirecting it (assuming it wasn't already registered), it would take only a very small fraction of users making that mistake to make it worthwhile to do so.

Also, it's not purely a question of foolishness. A given user may be well aware that .com is not interchangeable with .org, but if he sees an ad for www.plutorskewlwebsite.org, when he goes to visit it (perhaps hours or even days later), he may simply forget that it was a .org, remembering only plutorskewlwebsite.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:01 PM on October 1, 2007


One idea is to find someone who doesn't own the .com, and then compare it to their .org on something like alexa. If they own both, usually the stats are merged, which is useless for this purpose.

For instance, wwf.com vs wwf.org. wwf.com isn't even a real site and it's on top.

Or democrats.com vs democrats.org.
posted by smackfu at 1:03 PM on October 1, 2007


For the life of me I never remember that NPR is .org and not .com, thank goodness for that redirect, so I can say from personal experience, yes, it is a benefit to be redirected when you are being foolish. I also know that when I want to send a friend of mine to a site I hope it's .com 'cause if it isn't the friend ain't gonna remember the site. Specifically if it's a business site the brain connects .com with commercial.

But there is also the downside to owning two domains, I am forever giving out my wrong email address because the service I use website is comcast.com but the account I have is comcast.net. And I can never remember if my email is @comcast.net or @comcast.com.
posted by M Edward at 1:03 PM on October 1, 2007


I'm with devilsadvocate. The fact is, most sites I visit end in .com, so sometimes my fingers just type that out of habit, even if I KNOW it's .org or whatever.
posted by clh at 1:04 PM on October 1, 2007


It's not necessarily a negligible cost -- I struggle with this question sometimes, too. The .com version may already be taken, and the .org which is available may be a much easier-to-remember expression. Your other option may be something "close" but weird, maybe with hyphens or words that have to be spelled carefully when given verbally.

Also, I'd imagine that the obscurity of .org, .net, and even (far less attractive) .biz domain names has decreased over time. It would be helpful if anecdotal replies here included the time frame (e.g., when was your tech support time, Jezztek? Last year, or 5 years ago?)
posted by amtho at 1:06 PM on October 1, 2007


I meant that it's not necessarily a negligible cost to register both .com and .org domain names (or even just a .com name), and that I think the OP is trying to figure out just how much weight to give having a .com name.
posted by amtho at 1:08 PM on October 1, 2007


Based on my own experience (having a .net and then a .org as my primary domain), I've only had the problem of people assuming it's a .com very rarely—really, only 5-10 times since 1994, I think. Of course, this is only the times that I know about.
posted by adamrice at 1:09 PM on October 1, 2007


It really depends where most of your traffic is coming from. If your traffic is coming off Google or links/ads or you are just writing it down for people you know then no, I don't think it matters. When I am looking for a website these days I usually don't type in the address, I google the name. If you are a large non-profit or similar status and you have some cash to throw around however, then yes it is worthwhile to get the .com redirect.
posted by sophist at 1:17 PM on October 1, 2007


Also, many browsers will automatically tack on the ".com" if you just type in a name sans TLD, like "metafilter".
posted by signal at 1:19 PM on October 1, 2007


If available, spend the few bucks and register the name in .com, .org, and .net. That is, if your site is a revenue generator and/or you want to avoid having others steal your traffic, etc.

Plus, most of the sites I visit are reached by clicking on a link -- so if I spend 20 minutes checking out a site today that I think was called metafilter, and next week I want to find it again, I will probably automatically type in "metafilter.com" to find it. If that's not it, before trying metafilter.org or metafilter.net, my second step would be Google. Which would work fine in the case of a site like metafilter. But for a site that's not yet as easy to find, the go-to suffix is .com, so a redirect is worth it.

But if the .com isn't available, don't worry about it. There's only so much you can do. These days search (Google, and of course SEO) is king; domain names aren't as important as they once were. (Only because most of 'em are already registered. You just can't be anywhere near as unique as what was once possible.)
posted by iguanapolitico at 1:22 PM on October 1, 2007


As above says, does anyone actually type in addresses though? Get the domain in the search engines and does it matter
posted by A189Nut at 1:29 PM on October 1, 2007


I'm asking this question for a friend, and based on the way he phrased it, I'm assuming one of the following two facts are probably true: 1) buying the .com is not trivial-cost, i.e., it's already taken, or 2) he's trying to convince someone else. Since the question is asking for solid numbers, not just anecdotal experience, someone presumably wants to do some sort of ROI analysis with real data.
posted by Plutor at 1:30 PM on October 1, 2007


does anyone actually type in addresses though?

Yes.
posted by jejune at 1:34 PM on October 1, 2007


I work for a nonprofit which owns both the .org.au and the .com.au, as well as .com; our website is on the .org.au and the .com redirects to it. From memory, we get about 1900 hits a month from the .com.au and .com redirects combined. (I used this as evidence to prove that it was worthwhile). I can check that on Wednesday if you want solid evidence (I'm not at work today).

Another reason it's good to have the .com; some time ago the staff of a philanthropic foundation which I know through work, who only owned the .org, discovered that the corresponding .com redirected to a porn site.
posted by andraste at 1:38 PM on October 1, 2007


I used to be the IT director/sysadmin/one-person tech dogsbody for a private girls' middle school. The .com domain corresponding to our .org belonged, until I was able to snaffle it up at an outrageous cost, to a porn site based in Warsaw.

This was a couple of years ago, and people typed in the (wrong) address all the time. You can imagine the hijinks. I'd say get the .com.
posted by tangerine at 1:54 PM on October 1, 2007


With the prevalence of search engines like Google or bookmark sites like del.icio.us, does anyone actually type a web address in the URL bar? I always Google sites or rely on bookmarks/links. I mean who even remembers the address of del.ico.us if it is not bookmarked??? Typing in the domain name is old school.
posted by JJ86 at 1:54 PM on October 1, 2007


For what it's worth, I have one .com where the corresponding .net is owned by a band. I get personal email for these guys often, which I pass on to them. I'd guess that people make the "everything must be a .com" mistake more frequently with email than with visiting a website (and a lot of that mislabeled email goes into the ether, so it's hard to measure).
posted by lisa g at 1:59 PM on October 1, 2007


With the prevalence of search engines like Google or bookmark sites like del.icio.us, does anyone actually type a web address in the URL bar?

Yes.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:12 PM on October 1, 2007


My friend says "It's a great domain where we own .org -- .com and .net person is a squatter who won't sell."

andraste: "I work for a nonprofit which owns both the .org.au and the .com.au, as well as .com; our website is on the .org.au and the .com redirects to it. From memory, we get about 1900 hits a month from the .com.au and .com redirects combined. (I used this as evidence to prove that it was worthwhile). I can check that on Wednesday if you want solid evidence (I'm not at work today)."

That would be fantastic, yes please. How many hits do you get from the .org.au? (i.e. is that 1900 half your traffic, or 0.1% of it?)
posted by Plutor at 2:23 PM on October 1, 2007


With the prevalence of search engines like Google or bookmark sites like del.icio.us, does anyone actually type a web address in the URL bar


NOBODY uses sites like del.icio.us except for tech nerds like us, so yes, most people do in fact type in the URL.

Chalk me up as yet another NPR.com vs NPR.org confuser.
posted by melorama at 2:37 PM on October 1, 2007


does anyone actually type in addresses though?

Absolutely. But I'd guess those of us who do are net-savvy enough not to confuse a .com with a .org (or even a .edu).
posted by Rash at 3:25 PM on October 1, 2007


I actually just type the name and what I'm looking for and firefox does the rest. Is it npr.com or npr.org? Don't know, I just type "npr". Do a lot of people do this? Maybe, why else would "yahoo" be better than "sex?"

Firefox doesn't just add a .com, and it doesn't do I'm Feeling Lucky. It does Browse By Name, which is a threshold I'm Feeling Lucky that gives results when there's not a clear answer.
posted by ALongDecember at 3:46 PM on October 1, 2007


Count me in as someone who frequently types URLs into the address bar (and often has to Google if I get it wrong). The only time I can remember to type .org instead of .com is when the site is obviously an altruistic non-profit type thing. I can never remember that stuff for, say, MetaChat, which is why I have it bookmarked.
posted by desjardins at 4:20 PM on October 1, 2007


I have a moderately popular .org site: getrichslowly.org. I chose the domain because the .com was taken. Had I realized the site might garner a readership, I would have chosen .com.

I don't have any hard numbers for you, but I do have a couple of anecdotes.
  • I was interviewed by a New York Times tech writer, a reporter with a lot of experience in the field. We spoke for a couple hours, and he knew all about my site. Yet when the piece saw print, it pointed to getrichslowly.com.
  • After a similar error on a smaller scale, I contacted the owner of getrichslowly.com asking if he'd like to sell the domain. He was pleasant enough, but basically said "no way". My site is the best thing that ever happened to his site. He gets a lot more traffic now.
It's frustrating, yes, but I just deal with it. But I'd rather have the .com...
posted by jdroth at 7:34 PM on October 1, 2007


If possible, I'd always avoid setting up a site on .org/.net when someone else owns the .com; you'll just end up with confusion and lost traffic, and the more popular your site gets the higher the price will be to buy out the .com domain. Same goes for regional domains such as .co.uk, you ideally need the .com too.
posted by malevolent at 1:02 AM on October 2, 2007


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