New Study of Tech Startup Domains Shows .com Still Dominates the Choice of TLD

An interesting domain study done by doctoral student Thomas Park looked into several thousand tech startups from 2005 until now looking for domain trends. The primary focus of the study was the TLD of the domains chosen, and what he found wasn’t exactly a surprise.

The perennially dominant .com has remained the top choice of extension by a mile. It comprised of 82.8% of the 1,000 startups in the study founded in 2005, and of those founded in 2011, there was only a slight dip down to 82.2%. How far behind is the 2nd most common TLD? .net, which comprised 3.5% of the 2005-founded startups, made up only 2.2% of the 2011-founded startups.

We’ve gone into why .com’s should still be your choice for your business, and these numbers are certainly one of the major reasons why. With a vast majority of businesses using .com’s, including newly starting businesses, that’s where potential clients and customers of these businesses expect them to be.

That said, there are times when a domain in another extension may be worth taking a look at. Other extensions that saw some new startups in 2011 were .org (1.9%), .me (1.7%), .uk (1.5%), .co (1%), .in (1%), .io (0.9%), .ly (0.6%), .de (0.5%), .au (0.5%), .tv (0.5%) and numerous others at lower percentages.

It’s certainly evident that this is a study of a subset of startups. The main things to note are that .me, .co, .in, .io and .ly seem to get some usage among extensions not really centered around their country. .co is fairly low in usage for the amount of registrations, as is .in, but .me, .io and .ly are fairly high in usage for their amount of registrations.

One thing to keep in mind with such extensions is that their usage may differ quite a lot from each other and certainly from .com. .io and .ly for instance have seen a lot of brandable hacks similar to Bit.ly where the full brand name utilizes the extension when said aloud. .me and .in lend themselves to phrase hacks like Meet.me. .ly, .in and .co offer up many word hack possibilities (one of which we use, Doma.in).

.com on the other hand may be seeing a fairly large share of short catchy brandable names, but may also see standard brandable and generic domains as brands too. Often .net and .org are used to get higher quality domains that would otherwise have been gotten in .com if they were available. Naming strategies in the trendy country-code TLDs don’t always follow that same notion.

Another interesting thing to note from the study was the average length of .com domains. Skewed downward largely due to the prevalence of short brandable domains in tech startups, the average length ranged between 9 and 11 characters through the 2005-2011 time span of the study. The average length showed a decrease over the past couple years, with 2011 being 9.7 characters.

2007 and 2008 actually had average .com lengths less than that at 9.4 characters each year, but that’s likely explained by the short URL craze that Twitter had begun to spawn around that time. The craze has since somewhat evaporated, more so after Twitter began to use t.co to shorten links posted to Twitter.

That said, the new downturn in length likely indicates more adoption of short brandable domains, which we’ve highly touted in posts here including our recent one proclaiming them to be better brands than even top-tier generics. Especially with additional focus on mobile users, there’s as much of a focus on not having too long of a domain as having something short and catchy.

I think the trends shown in this study will continue over this year. We’ll see what happens when new TLDs get introduced – I think there’s certainly a chance that some startups will use domains in new TLDs, but with few of them being touted as possible .com alternatives (.web being one of those), it’s unlikely any of them will reach .net, .org or .me level of usage this study shows.

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3 Comments on “New Study of Tech Startup Domains Shows .com Still Dominates the Choice of TLD”

  1. [...] New Study of Tech Startup Domains Shows .com Still Dominates the Choice of TLD [...]

  2. Cococay says:

    Interesting review about .io domains. I was looking why there were so many startups using .io domains.

  3. Sharon Hayes says:

    Reblogged this on Sharon Hayes Dot Com.


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