'Shhh' No More! The Biggest Secret in Website Naming is Revealed

Donuts Word Cloud
Donuts Word Cloud

Ready or not, the Internet landscape is about to change. In fact, it already has. It’s likely that you just haven’t been made aware. It has to do with the way that website domains can be named. Perhaps you’ve already seen it, and didn’t even realize it.

Do these look like websites to you?

wonder.land artof.social taco.bike

What if I introduced the "www" in front of the string, they way we used to with ".com" during the Internet's early days?

www.wonder.land www.artof.social www.taco.bike

At first it might seem a little odd to see something other than ".com" after that second dot. We've been conditioned to equate ".com" with "Internet website." It's often the default for businesses and people securing their website identity, even as that Internet real estate continues to shrink -- a frustrating fact for those looking to launch a digital identity.

But the Internet landscape is opening up in a whole new way, thanks to words such as ".land," ".social" and ".bike." It's happening fast, and for most of the general public, it's been happening under the radar.

The "secret" is out

During this past year, more than 400 new domain endings -- words to the right of the dot -- have been introduced into circulation. Meaning, when you go to a site such as GoDaddy to purchase a domain for your website, you now have choice beyond ".com," ".net," and ".biz." In fact, by the end of 2016, there will be more than 1,300 different endings from which to choose.

You read that right: 1,300.

Curious which words get got a green light? Click here for a full list of available domain endings approved by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the governing body that spent the past decade spearheading this effort.

These new words not only open up more Internet real estate, but they provide distinct ways to categorize oneself as a business, as a person, as a whatever. Those launching website identities needn’t feel obligated to default to ".com." Putting it another way: Think of what appears to the right of the dot as a surname. If we all had the last name of ".com," this would be a very boring world, no?

For instance, if you’re a photographer, you could opt for a ".photography" ending to your domain name. If you’re a health club or personal trainer, you could choose a ".fitness" ending. If you’re an expert at something, you could consider ".expert" or -- yes -- even ".guru."

It’s a chance to be creative, memorable and meaningful with that "last name."

Early adoption

With Internet giants such as Google and Amazon rallying around these new words, even securing a handful for themselves, the future looks promising for these new words. Despite the lack of publicity, nearly 4 million sites were registered using one of these new domain endings in 2014, and preliminary data suggests that growth in these new endings is cannibalizing the growth of ".com."

But let's be realistic: Will everyone launching a website take this new approach? No. Will those with established sites rush to adopt one of these new endings? Probably not. These new words won't push ".com" out of our vernacular and everyday use. After all, many smartphone keypads feature ".com" as a stand-alone button.

Smartphone Dot Com
Smartphone Dot Com

What these new words offer, however, is choice. As this "secret" gets out to the masses, Internet entrepreneurs looking to launch a digital identity and frustrated by the lack of ".com" real estate have options that didn't exist before. They can be distinctive, memorable and categorize their business accordingly.

It will be interesting to see which of these new domain endings catch on first. Some are sure to be bigger hits than others. (Words like ".guru," for instance have already scooped up more than 80,000 registrations.) This upcoming year will reveal which “dot-what’s” may be on track to be as accepted as "com."

And for those who remain skeptical of or overwhelmed by these new words, know this: These things take time. Remember when the Internet first entered the mainstream? We all seem to have adopted to that seismic shift just fine.