Owning Up to “I Own It”

In stark contrast to my previous post, let me point out that there are plenty of dictionary-word domains that are extremely successful in the dot com TLD (“top-level domain”). Indeed, some (such as Johnson & Johnson’s baby.com) are so successful, that the company (in this case J&J) even registered the proprietary top-level domain (.baby).

Nonetheless, the impressively vast majority of strings registered in dot com are not words, but brand names (trademarks, etc.).

Let me now delve a little deeper into how natural language works… — in particular, how we use words. Making something your own is a matter of accepting it into your environment – it’s an agreement to think about, it, care about it, being concerned, etc. When we decide to use words (or not), it is always of our own choosing.

We don’t need or have to use particular words. There are many many millions of strings I couldn’t care less about (if fact, the number is ca. 1 Googol per „top level domain“ [TLD]). Some of these strings are words in languages I neither understand nor speak, but by far the vast majority are simply completely random gobbledygook.

Once I was at a domain conference where Bob Parsons was a speaker. He explained that there are still many many millions of unregistered strings in the dot com TLD 10 characters or less. After his speech I walked up to Mr. Parsons, who was then surrounded by dozens of domainers wanting to ask questions or whatever. I showed him a slip with some such a random 10 character string and asked him how much he would be willing to pay for it. He replied: „nothing“. I feel I made my point quite well. 😉

About a decade ago, I noted that domains are really only valuable IFF („if and only if“) they are exact matches for what someone wants… – or rather types in. Someone may actually want a coffee table, but if they type in furniture, then it’s the string „furniture“ which is actually valuable. In the meantime, such domains have acquired a name: such a string is now referred to as an „exact match domain“.

Another thing I noted about a decade ago – but which still remains „undiscovered“ by most – is that noone really ever „owns“ a string. If people decide to no longer want „furniture“, and instead choose to want a „coffee table“, a „desk“, a „chair“, a „couch“ or a „sofa“… then these strings become more valuable and „furniture“ plunges in value. Strings such as „house“ or „home“ or „gold“ or „oil“ are not valuable in and of themselves – they are only valuable if and only if (IFF) they are in demand by other people.

As an example, take the string „google“. Many people have made a huge fuss over it – as far as I know, the string is even listed in some modern dictionaries. I don’t know how they have defined it, but I would define it as „to use a website in which the second-level domain is ‘google’“. Similarly, „to twitter“ may now be interpreted as „to use a website in which the second-level domain is ‘twitter’“, and so on. I no longer use such websites (see e.g. „retard media“), so these strings are essentially worthless in my book.

The important takeaway from all of this is: It is possible to muck up a domain. If you try to sell donuts at sex.com, you will undoubtedly ultimately be punished by the market forces of natural language working against you. People are always free to choose another word, to create new words, to route around a language problem… — if you don’t believe that, then just dictionary it! 😉

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Dot Com Domain Names are Almost All Brands

While it is true that nearly all dot com domain names are brands, this does not mean that all brands must be dot com domain names. I would not advise against choosing a dot com domain name for a brand, but there is very little sense in registering a name like verylongandhardtoremember dot com.

There are perhaps a handful – at most a few dozen — domain names which describe something like „marketing categories“ of information. You might consider such categories to be roughly equivalent to magazine titles (e.g. „People“) or something like traditional publishing ressorts („sports“, „travel“, „business“, etc.). There are indeed also names registered in dot com for marketing categories which might be considered to be niche markets (e.g. „movies“, „cars“, „hotels“, etc.)… and quite often the websites for the corresponding domain names are search engines for that category. These are, however, more often the exception than they are the rule… especially in the dot com registry. The reason why this is so is that over the past several decades people have become accustomed to the idea that the dot com top level domain (TLD) is intended for brand names (e.g. it is quite plasible that no one should expect amazon dot com should be anything other than a commercial entity). Ironically, this seems so blatantly obvious that it almost seems odd when someone registers their personal name as a dot com address without it being the website for some sort of commercial enterprise. Dot com has become the quintessential „fictitious business name“ registry – there is no need to create a dot dba registry (for „doing business as“), as this is de facto what dot com has come to mean.

So while hotels dot com may help someone to find a hotel, it is first and foremost a commercial entity. Just as not every person is to be found in People (Magazine), so too not every hotel will be listed in the hotels dot com „lookup“ directory. Indeed: Just as you may find out more about some people in magazines other than People (Magazine), you may also find out more about some hotels at websites other than hotels dot com (and you will probably find out next to nothing about the Amazon region at amazon dot com).

Dot com now has so many registered names that well over 99 out of 100 dot com domain names are not marketing categories (let alone English words). In other words: More than 99% of dot com domain names are brand names.

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