What Are Domain Hacks and Are They Worth Buying?

Probably the most interesting, outside-the-box domain you’ll ever see is a domain hack. Successful sites using domain hacks such as Del.icio.us, Blo.gs, Bit.ly and Instagr.am have kept this intriguing style of domain as a trend, especially in social media where it thrives. With hundreds more new domain extensions coming in 2013 due to ICANN’s new TLD program, domain hacks may start to become a lot more popular.

What is a domain hack?

A domain hack is a domain that uses multiple parts of a domain (potentially including subdomains and subfolders) to create the word or phrase. In its simplest and most common form, it’s a domain that uses the name and the extension to create a single word. They are a type of brandable domain as they are unique, unusual and typically catch attention as a result. Despite that, they are commonly used to create a generic term, like with our domain Doma.in.

The concept of domain hacks may be more recently popular compared to other kinds of domain names, but they’ve been around for a while. Based on registration date, Inter.net is believed to be the first domain hack registered way back in 1992. The first comercially popular domain hack was Del.icio.us which began in 2002. Blo.gs was another early successful site built upon a domain hack, having been registered in 2001 and seeing success later. Both wound up selling to Yahoo in 2005.

Since Del.icio.us, more domain hacks sprung up as social bookmarking sites such as Ma.gnolia.com and Bookmark.it. Since the popularity of Bit.ly as a URL shortener, the same has happened with other URL shortener sites as well. In general, social media is where domain hacks have seen the most success and continues to be a rising trend.

Types of domain hacks

1. Word Hack – A domain where both sides of the dot combine to form a word, i.e. Doma.in

2. Dual hack – A 1-word domain that can also form another word using its extension, i.e. Box.es (Box and Boxes)

3. Subdomain hack – A subdomain that forms a word across itself, the name and the extension, i.e. Del.icio.us

4. Subdirectory hack – A subdirectory that forms a word across the name, the extension and itself, i.e. Foundat.io/n

5. Phrase hack – A domain where both sides of the dot are each a word and form a phrase, i.e. Help.me

6. Brandable hack – A domain where both sites of the dot form a short brandable “made up” word, i.e. Bit.ly (commonly referred to as “Bitly”)

7. Partial subdomain hack – A subdomain that uses the subdomain and name only to work a word, i.e. Ma.gnolia.com

8. Split phrase hack – A domain where the last word in the hack is split across the dot, i.e. CreditCa.rd *Note: Many do not consider this a domain hack so they aren’t very highly sought.

In general, word hacks and phrase hacks are the most popular and generally regarded as the highest quality. Brandable hacks have been gaining steam lately due to sites like Instagr.am seeing wide success.

What makes a good domain hack?

1. Simple

Domain hacks need to stay short and to the point. Overly elaborate hacks, especially involving multiple words, may not be deciphered by potential visitors or may feel like a poor attempt to be interesting. Less is more.

2. Short

Unlike generic com/net/org domains that can go up to 4 or more words and 20 or more characters, domain hacks lose effectiveness quickly the longer they get. It’s harder to verbalize the name and it can lose its flair.

3a. Word/phrase strength (if generic)

If you’re using hacks of a generic term or phrase, similar to generic domains, you should look for a strong term, something with high search, high CPC and ultimately something in a lucrative area. The value of a domain hack vs. the equivalent term in .com is much lower, so consider that you should be able to get much better terms in a domain hack than in .com for the same price.

3b. Catchiness/memorability (if brandable)

If you’re using hacks of a brandable term or phrase, consider that you should be able to get a much better term than you can get in .com for the same price. Less people will be able to remember it being a hack vs. if it were a .com, so the term or phrase itself must be highly catchy or memorable. Otherwise it will be different simply because it’s a hack but not in a good way.


Should you get a domain hack?

It depends. They are rarely seen outside of social media, and they can only succeed in those cases if the name is REALLY good. Domain is the one word that sums up our industry, so Doma.in is a powerful domain hack and always catches positive attention. Inside social media, they do have some popularity and have helped extensions like .ly, .io, .am and .me to surge. As always though, you should try to get the very best name you can get within your budget – there’s a fine line between a quality developable domain hack and one not worth registering.

One thing to note is that with new TLDs coming in 2013, phrase hacks will especially become more possible. Some potential extensions like .shop or .blog would essentially be made for the entire purpose of creating many strong phrase hack possibilities. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye out for when those extensions come to see if domain hacks become a stronger trend.

At Domainate, as our ownership of Doma.in should indicate, we “get” domain hacks. We use that one and have been involved in sales and acquisitions of many others. Contact us and we can help you determine whether domain hacks may be an option for you to consider.


3 Comments on “What Are Domain Hacks and Are They Worth Buying?”

  1. […] with a double-meaning, a clever play-on-words, an obscure foreign word with relevant meaning, a domain hack, or perhaps an interesting brandable […]

  2. […] Domain hacks can pretty much be in any extension. Our own Doma.in is in the .in extension I just cautioned about, but is highly targeted for our industry and good enough quality to use. Once you get into lower-quality hacks however, they lose their luster for business use. […]

  3. […] domain hack we use for our wholesale and training division, Doma.in, may break some tips we offer up. For one […]

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