Some domain investors have been complaining about new gTLDs (new general top-level domains) seeing in them a threat to their almighty dot-com and while the latter has not yet been dethroned as “the king extension” the competition has definitely been felt.
As an investor, you often hear the phrase competition is good and should be supported so why should it be any different from the domain industry? It’s not like .com stands for “communist” (it’s “commercial” dummies) although when you listen to people like Rick Schwartz who calls himself “Domain King” (why not “The Father of Domains” while he’s at it) it sometimes feels like it.
Yet this phenomenon is not new and not limited to new gTLDs. I see in the rise of these “new” domains something I saw before with domain hacks — the best example to date is musical.ly which grew a billion dollar business on a .ly domain name before being acquired by Chinese giant TikTok — and more particularly with ccTLDs (country code top-level domains) like .io .tv .am .fm .to .ai & .et which have throughout the years proven themselves to be reliable alternative domains for their users and valuable niches for investors like myself who are not afraid of the dark and “obscure extensions” as the old .com guardians like to call them.
These smart extensions or alternative domains as I prefer to call them because they actually stand for something other than the generic “commercial” word or the countries they are associated with. They also offer many available domains and have gained in recognition and momentum thanks to their rather wide adoption by:
- i/o startups
- online “AM” & “FM” radios
- web TVs
- Torrents & crypto
- the artificial intelligence or “AI” community
- the soon-to-be extra-terrestrial community (E.T. phone home)
Let’s take the .to extension of the Kingdom of Tonga which as long been known for its sense of humour in forbidding offensive domain registrations but more so for its association with torrent websites and the crypto community.
The cryp.to domain has been online for as far back as 1997(!) and was registered by a German cryptographer. It’s for sale for $1 million for those interested (I asked). While Nakamo.to short for Satoshi Nakamoto (the creator of Bitcoin) is used by a Berlin-based Blockchain startup and Tether.to hosts the cryptocurrency of the same name. It can also be used to create meaningful phrase domains like link.to or tips.to. Adding additional subfolders you can create SEO friendly branded short URLs like link.to/flippa, tips.to/invest, etc. It’s also worth noting that the Tonic.to the registry and Toronto-based Register.TO have been providing free whois anonymous privacy many years before GDPR or why it has been a favorite of torrent sites and the cryp-to community (crypto strands for “secret” in greek). Register.TO officially partnered with Tonic.to and the Kingdom of Tonga in 2012 to provide the .to TLD to Toronto and the rest of the world, to help increase its global use and popularity. Also worth noting Register.TO also provides emoji domain support and .to domain name back ordering.
Since a few years now the .AI registry has seen an explosion in the number of domains registered and has become the de facto extension for AI startups like the Microsoft-acquired Bons.ai (a domain hack of “Bonsai”) or Nuro.ai which has raised $940 million for its AI car delivery service. Let’s just say they can afford the $100 yearly renewal cost.
And the last comer (or “comet” like its top-level tld .com.et) .et which thanks to the recent liberalization of its registry Ethio telecom could soon position itself as the next big thing: space exploration. It also offers amazing domain hacks like intern.et plan.et etc.
Domain sales have also gone up despite not being widely enough reported on by the traditional domain press.
The startup-loving .io has been a very lucrative niche for Flippa sellers (Meet One of Flippa’s Most Successful .io Domain Sellers) with mix.io sold for $40,000 and cloud.io for $45,000 while the backorder service park.io have prided themselves to making over $150,000/month mostly catching .io domains in the British Indian Ocean Territory and selling them to the best bidder.
On the .to side alternative.to topped $11,100 late in march and au.to hacked its way at $7,200 earlier this month.
The monthly .ai auctions ran by the registry have resulted in tens of thousands of dollars in extra revenue for Anguilla and its economy.
Two .ET’s di.et sold for $10,000 and w.et for $25,000 have made their way to the top charts on Flippa for the years 2016-2017 introducing Ethiopia as a new Eldorado.
Tuvalu’s own .tv stands out with the most sales over $10,000 and five over $100,000 according to Namebio.com.
Only .am really made it big from the .am / .fm duo with the sale of the single character domains 9.am for a record $169,000 seconded by 6.am for $45,000.
The internet turned 30 this year and counts over 4 billion users making the top 3 gTLDs (.com .net .org) totally saturated with domains. As a 30-year-old myself if I learned anything is that I want to have more choices not less so I welcome and celebrate new (and older) extensions that have yet to show us their true potential thus to disrupt the domain world for years to come.