Non Dot Coms

It’s 1995 all over again. 

Only this time there won’t be a boom and bust, just steady growth, as generic top-level domains (gTlds) go mainstream. 

Non Dot Coms are domains with inherent messaging. Examples include Sporting.Events, Singles.Live, and Wine.Club. Each domain is a fully contained word phrase, rather than one with an add-on appendage to the right of the Dot, typically, one of the usual suspects: com, net, org, gov, or edu.

So, what’s going on with these new domain called gTlds or, as we like to say, “Non Dot Coms?” 

If you’re looking to flip domains, these new gTlds are unlikely to sell to professional investors for a quick buck. Most domain professionals want nothing to do with anything other than classic domains, but you have to ask why. This is mainly because traditional Dot Coms are well-accepted and in high demand; Non Dot Coms are not.

In addition, holding costs are currently much higher, almost triple the renewal cost of Dot Coms, although about half their launch cost— which was $50/year when domains were first commercialized in 1995, with a 2-year minimum registrations for $100 each. The best Non Dot Coms are far pricier, yet, unlike Dot Coms, pricing has never gone down.

Widespread acceptance and speculation has yet to kick in, as it did in the late 90’s for Dot Coms. That means there’s still a window for developers and enlightened investors to buy amazing, on-point Non Dot Com messaging without competing with millions of domain speculators.

Just this year, there are strong signs that Non Dot Coms are finally beginning to take off. In the 2018 Top-100 sales-to-date, 7 are Non Dot Coms with 3 six-figure deals listed in the Top-10, according to Ron Jackson's DN Journal. You can see the trend; these sales represent a significant uptick over the last 5 years, the period when the vast majority of gTlds came on-line. 

Message.Sales.jpg

By “Non Dot Coms,” I'm focusing only on domains with meaningful, generic messaging— the "g" in gTld—  excluding most country coded and numeric domains, those popular among Asians and others with image-based languages. I'm also excluding proprietary domains like .Google, .Staple, or .Walmart, which are not in play.

peaked dot coms

In contrast, while Dot Coms remain a solid investment, where’s the upside? They’re at the top of their game, so there is no objective reason to believe they will continue to grow in value. In fact, Dot Coms are no longer seen as cutting edge or even cool— certainly when the Dot Com is included in your company name, but do you know why? A Dot Com suggests you are a on-line business and that’s passé, no longer important nor stylish.

Today, it’s web services that have become essential and differentiating— what you do through the Internet— not merely being on the Internet. Put another way, everyone’s on the web; what else are you doing? 

Yet, there will never be another Dot Com, just as there will never be another Broadway, Wall Street, or Hollywood. These are institutions. You need not wait another decade to know that adoption will only be modest, at best, for any one of these Non Dot Coms. We’ve already seen several follow-on domains, .me, .info, .biz, or .us., which remain obscure as domains, despite decades of availability.

So, should you get a Non Dot Com or stick with a Dot Com? Well, yes.

Hip, New Messaging

Branding is all about the powerful messaging. The superior messaging of Non Dot Coms is just beginning to gain acceptance and that will cause them to soar value; messaging that creates understanding.

DXC.GoingPublic.jpg

That, combined with what’s hip and cool today: using a word play in your website address or being first to deploy an ideally positioned Non Dot Com. For example, CloudWi.reJoin.MeDel.icio.us, or DXC.Technology shown here going public. 

 

Actionable Brands are Back!

DXC Technology is a 7.6 Billion dollar company, so they certainly weren’t compelled to use some left-over domain address. In fact, they bought DXC.com for six-figures— the ideal Dot Com— yet chose to standout by hosting their global site and creating a logo around the hip, new domain, DXC.Technolgy, which they hand-registered. 

DXC.Technolgy serves as both their moniker and a clickable brand. That simply doesn’t work with a Dot Com anymore, but do you know why? 

Were you to brand with a Dot Com address you’d be projecting the stigma associated its 30-year history. Sure, you’ll get the clickability of the “Dot,” but can’t avoid looking like some silly, wannabe Dot Com from the 90’s— only 2 decades late! Even companies that formed in the 90's have dropped the Dot Com from their brands in response the embarrassing crash in the early 2000's, i.e. to disassociate themselves from the Dot Bombs.

Only a Non Dot Com domains combine hip and cool with functionality. DXC gets this. They live this. Non Dot Com branding is the bridge from the past to the present and beyond. This is the promise of an actionable brand without all the baggage, enticing users to type direct and avoid search— where they are sure to be exposed to competitive websites.

 

Surging Non-Dot-Com adoption

While very affordable— often 10% of a Dot Com's cost— Non Dot Coms must exactly match your positioning. For example, Wine.com may be used for anything related to wine, while Wine.Shop is clearly a different play then Wine.Club. When your market position is in harmony with the messaging, say Wine.Club for a wine club, Non Dot Coms are as good as it gets. 

And that’s not just an opinion. Wine.Club sold at auction in 2015 for $140,000 where the high bid for WineClub.Com was only $60,000, and failed to meet the reserve in a 2017 auction. Had these domains been sold side-by-side, on the same day, I believe the Dot Com may have gone for more, but the messaging in Wine.Club is clearly superior than the domain with the dangling dot com.

Home.Loans sold for $500,000 in early 2018. All indications are that this purchase was a bargain, as Home.Loans will be capturing value for years to come in a market measured in trillions.

With over a thousand domain extensions, it is now messaging that matters, not the mere functionality of the Dot. They all “Dot” the same. The most valuable Non Dot Coms will be those that precisely represent market categories, like Auto.Glass, Options.Exchange, Translate.Info, or Streamed.Live.

Experience has borne this out. The largest Non Dot Coms sales to date mostly represent categories: Home.Loans, Vacation.Rentals, Wine.Club, Video.Games, Casino.Online, and Web.Hosting.

While it may take years for Non Dot Coms to displace the traditional five as the go-to domains, many will emerge as famous brands. Join.Me, for example, is built on a compelling message for a shared-screen experience, as is Zoom.US. We may use Telex.Live for our new phone-web integration platform. 

Yet, en mass, Non Dot Coms are on track to surpass the registrations of Dot Coms alone in the next few years— certainly once acquisition and holding costs are reduced. As of Dec, 2017, ICANN reported that overall Non Dot Coms adoption is 17.9%* of Dot Com registrations, and already exceeds Dot Nets sales by 62.7%.

That means, consumers are rapidly becoming aware of the distinction, not of any one Non Dot Com— there will be thousands— but that there are new ways to do the Dot.

* Total gTld as of Dec, 2018 were 23.6 million vs. 131.9 Dot Com and 14.5 Dot Net registrations at year's end

They all “Dot” the same.

As I was writing this, I ran across the back story of Blake Hanover, the guy who purchased Home.Loans in January, 2018. He said:

"I’m a real estate guy and look at it from a real estate perspective. .Com, .net, doesn’t feel like an effective use of this digital real estate that I’m buying. I’m buying the top of your screen. I mean, what does .com really mean anymore anyway, what is its utility? And I’m not talking bad about it. I’m just saying that for everybody that wanted to buy two-word domains, you had to have two words plus like some little thing at the end of it."— Black Janover

Indeed. Just why is some "little thing" dangling at end of our domains?

Share the Love!

Today, all the dumb money is chasing Dot Coms. Yet, that could easily shift and shift quickly, as speculative registrations are generally on a one-year horizon. By "dumb money" I'm not referring to business owners who actually build out their websites, but to speculators hoping for a quick flip on very poorly selected domains.

Registries like Donuts and others need to slash their acquisition and renewal cost. That will change both the conversation and unleash speculation, specifically Donuts, as they hold some of the best Not Dot Com inventory. The owners of the Dot Club registry has already slashed renewal cost to levels of Dot Net domains— and is now ranked in the Top-5 for Non Dot Com registrations—  although they are still imposing market price on acquisitions. Good start, guys!

It's mass speculation that plays the dominate role in domain registrations, not those end-user build-outs that get all the press. Overall, it’s estimated that more than 75% of all domains are inactive— but that's misleading because the 25%, the live sites, have accumulated over more than 30 years of Internet growth. Those Dot Coms have permanent homes and are typically renewed automatically. It's the vast majority of the undeveloped domains that are being held for resale or by dreamers with good intentions. For nascent Non Dot Coms, virtually all were bought for resale, as there are few notable build-outs.

It’s mass speculation that plays the dominate role in domain registrations, not the end-user build-outs that get all the press.

The Top-5 Non Dot Coms alone represent almost 40%* of all gTLD registrations — and there are over a thousand in play. Of those, three (.top, .xyz, and .club) have holding costs comparable to Dot Com or Dot Net. Only .Loan and .Vip have taken off despite being priced as luxury goods. For some gTlds, the annual cost is so crazy high there are but a few hundred registrations or less. The Donuts registry, where all domains are luxury priced, has only one ranked in the Top-20, the Non Dot Com, .ltd.

* The Top-5 have 8.9 million registrations of 23.2 million Non Dot Coms

 

Top20.Domains.jpg

While the messaging captures value, it’s the underlying market size and quality that determines value. Clearly, loans have a high perceived value and, presumably, VIPs have high discretionary spending, a moniker known in all languages. 

 

Raising non dot com Stature

What’s lost on these registries is the immense value of word-of-mouth promotion on market growth. Right now, we’ve got professional investors and millions of speculators trashing Non Dot Coms in favor of traditional domains. Combine slashed pricing with the visibility of recent sales, and millions of speculators would begin promoting gTlds— especially the younger ones, betting on the viability of Non Dot Com where Dot Coms have already peaked in value.

Right now, we have the registries holding prime inventory for themselves and charging high renewals to anyone who dares invest. Professional domain investors remain wisely on the sidelines.

We’ll never see a perfect storm like the one we had in the late 90’s; the excitement of an Internet roll-out, mass free publicity, and a concurrent price drop that fueled speculation. Like many early investors, my first 1,000 domains cost $100,000— and I sold my Lincoln Park condo in 1998 to pay for them! Yet, within 2-years, the minimum registration at the time, holding costs dropped over 80% and I somehow survived. Yet now, after several years, I’m still waiting for registries to drop Non Dot Com pricing down from the stratosphere.

Today, there is nothing really new and little publicity, so short of the registries spending hundreds of millions in advertising, only professional investors can raise the stature of Non Dot Coms. Right now, we have the registries holding prime inventory for themselves and charging high renewals to anyone who dares invest. The vast majority of professional domain investors remain wisely on the sidelines.

Yet, the pros are not were the real money is. For every savvy professional there are thousands of amateur speculators willing to spend real cash on anything with an upside. These are the same crazed speculators that continue to fuel the crypto Ponzi schemes and enrich Las Vegas casinos.

The real source of Verisign’s enrichment: Annual renewals on up to 100 million worthless domain registration that will never, ever be sold or built out.

You can see this for yourself, on any given night. Just look over the available domains at NameJet, where domain professionals compete for inventory. You’ll see bids on only 3 of every 100 available domains. What this illustrates, clearly, is that amateur marketers paid real money to register and hold unsellable Dot Com junk, perhaps, for years. That’s a registry’s dream!

For every 3 Dot Coms of tangible, commercial value, 97 of each 100 registrations were doomed from the start. Even professionals rarely get it right, but it’s the amateur who are the real source of Verisign’s enrichment, annual renewals on up to 100 million worthless domain registration that will never, ever be sold or built out (97% of the 75% inactive Dot Com registrations, numbered at 131.9 million). 

That’s what’s at play. Assuming a $10/year registration, that’s almost one billion dollars in annual revenues— $1,000,000,000.00 in crazed speculation— money which will begin to chase Non Dot Coms, once Donuts and the other registries get this right.

do the mall

Think of it like this. Non Dot Coms are like beautiful new malls with obscene rent and very few stores— run by the mall itself— and nobody shops there! The malls have great location, but the owners dream of eliminating the shop owners and doing it all themselves, or charging their store partners such high rent, no entrepreneur in their right mind would move in there. Is it any wonder that Non Dot Coms have barely taken off?

Non-Dot-Com-Mall.jpg

 

UNLEASH the crazed Amateurs

As with any aspiring mall, there needs to a variety of stores stocked with great inventory to attract shoppers.  To unleash the crazed amateurs, Donuts and other registries must first get professional investors on-board by slashing acquisition price and renewals— empowering them, rather than displacing and competing with them. Only then will Non Dot Coms be seriously promoted by domain professionals, those industry veterans who actually talk to and influence real buyers— unlike the registrars, who are just the vending machines for Non Dot Com domains. It’s the stores and personal service that make malls famous, not their locations.

Combine the push of professionals with the pull of superior messaging, and DotComs may soon be cast as the “old school” domain, like having an @AOL address— as in “Oh, God, where-have-you-been!

That’s how this really works. Share the love to create the frenzy.  For Non Dot Coms to become the domain of choice, professional investors need to make money selling Non Dot Com, not just the registries. That will amplify the promotion effects 100x— because thousands of professionals will begin raving about them. As of January 2018, Donuts had a sales staff of just three professionals, so a 100x promotional increase is hardly an exaggeration!

Once professional investors begin touting Non Dot Com and sharing success stories, that will unleash the millions of amateurs speculators who, like minions, will begin to buy up all the Junk.Domains in lieu of the JunkDomains Dot Coms they're buying now, dreaming of untold riches. You can not beg that kind of publicity, nor spend millions enough to achieve this effect with advertising. This is just like fashion. The masses follow the trendsetters. Donuts and other registries can not do this alone.

Registrars are just vending machines for Non Dot Com domains, so they rarely influence any real customers.

Combine the push of professionals with the pull of superior messaging, and Dot Coms may soon be cast as the “old school” domain, like having an @AOL address— as in “Oh, God, where-have-you-been! That's the only way speculative Non Dot Com registrations will rapidly grow to 100 million. Share the love.

 

going retail

Even for registries that deplore speculation and don't care to tap into this billion dollar renewal market, the principles are the same. Professionals, actual users of Non Dot Coms in this case, are essential to hasten adoption. You need to align with trendsetters to get other professionals to pile on— even pay them to adopt Non Dot Coms. 

The goal is just to entice professionals to host their sites on hip, cool Non Dot Coms, rather than own and forward them to their traditional Dot Coms. That’s a safe upgrade, as there’s no need to dump their existing Dot Com or replace email addressing. As you'll see, there's a role for both domain types.

Check out DXC.Com to see this in action. All they've really done is use DXC.Technology as their website address and in their logo. DXC Technology Company— their entity name— now projects hip and cool, but with minimal disruption and no goofy email addressing.  Should someone type in dxc.com, c'est la vie; goes right to them!

Click Bait Rules

When Non Dot Coms are aligned with your market position, the messaging is as clickable as it gets.

You see. You click. No one hesitates to click on Wine.Club when that’s exactly what they're looking for! Indeed, Non Dot Com messaging is so clear and concise that, if we were to redesign the Internet domain system today, we would choose gTlds over what’s essentially an unnecessary appendage, the dangling Dot Com. Yet, we have to deal with 30+ years of consumer momentum. 

It’s not hyperlink aspect of Non Dot Coms that presents a challenge, but human typing— especially email. While these new gTlds make fabulous click bait, at some point prospects may hand-type your email address and, out of habit, are likely to type a Dot Com at the end, leading to lost or delayed email delivery. Thankfully, this is easy to work around. 

To minimize typing errors, you can offer a webform for site visitors to initiate communication. That allows a communication chain to begin without anyone typing in an unfamiliar domain format. Yet, that doesn’t work for business networking, where prospects personally initiate communication from a business card.

Knowing that email is the weak link in Non Dot Com deployment, marketers can simply adopt a traditional address for email, at least for the near future. For my ticketing business, I use Non Dot Coms like Broadway.Events as click bait, yet, all communication is done @WillCall.Com

Non Dot Com messaging is so clear and concise that, if we were to redesign the Internet domain system today, we would choose gTlds over what’s essentially an unnecessary appendage, the dangling Dot Com.

While you want your hyperlinked messaging to be concise and create understanding, there are dozens of emails domains that can be adopted along side your Non Dot Com site domain to cover this email vulnerability. 

DXC.Technology, for example, could have easily adopted DXCTechnoloy.com, DXCTechnologies.com, DXCTech.com, DXCMail.com— or similar Dot Nets, which are fine for email— if they didn’t already own, the ideal, but rather unhip, DXC.Com.

Take note. It was by choice that DXC presents themselves as cutting edge, rather then risk being perceived as just another technology company with a Dot Com address. You too can be hip and cool. Just like Dot Coms in the late nineties, prospects are jolted into attention when presented an unexpected address. Today, having a Non Dot Com address is a sure way to be perceived as cutting edge and in the know. There's no other way.  Anyone clinging to Dot Com in their company name is projecting all the "old school" baggage as well.

Finally, rest assured that your Non Dot Com site will be fully recognized by Google and the other search engines, that give zero preference to traditional domains. They have to! 

Google now sells domains at their new, hip Non Dot Com address: Domains.Google, where they forward visitors who happen to type-in Domains.Google.Com, you know, the one with the "dangling Dot Com." 

For a live search example, type "Hooli" in Google, from HBO show Silicon Valley, and up pops Hooli.xyz. There will be many others that rise to the top of organic search.

Search: Not a Public Service!

What’s lost on amateur marketers is the dramatic decrease in direct navigation, where domains must exactly and reliably reproduced by prospects. These days consumers rarely type the Dot at all— and leave off anything meaningless like “Com” or “Net,” especially when the ending is uncertain. For example, when searching for either WineClub.Com or Wine.Club, consumers simply type “wine club” into Google, with no quotes and no Dot. 

Prior to 2009, just to get to Google, you first had to type in “Google.Com.” Since search invaded the URL bar, most users rely on Google to take them on a ride to their requested site. They just type in the word phrase (click #1) and then click on the desired site (click #2)— or a competitors site. Click, Click, Hooray!

Recent stats suggest that only 12% of web traffic is Direct Navigation, but even that may be skewed. It stands to reason that type-ins will be higher for famous sites like Amazon.com, eBay.com, and others that are burned into the minds of consumers, but surely lower than average for others, because of the uncertainly of business name, spelling, and whether the web address includes a Dot Com or something else.

Prior to 2016, when a business was not organically displayed on the first page, it was optional to pay for top placement with PPC. Since then, Google has displaced most of organic listings from the first page altogether with ads, forcing even well-ranked companies to pay up. Marketing professions are only beginning to recognize the perils of search. From the standpoint of the advertiser, it’s now Click, Click, You Pay

Search is the enemy. In fact, the very premise of for-profit search is obscene. Imagine placing a call to Macys, only to have the phone company intervene with a self-serving message, “We see you’re calling Macy’s. How about connecting with JCP instead? Press one.

Phone calls go direct and keep prospects off the search engines, saving millions in search fees!

Even major corporations, ranked #1 organically, can not escape the clutches of Google. Although Google will displace competitive ads, they place a PPC honeypot above their #1 organic listings, continuously extracting value from web searchers who just click the top listing out of convenience. Ouch! Type “Progressive Insurance” and “Sandals Resorts” into Google and you will see this extraction for yourself (use a non-mobile browser).

It may have puzzled you to see 1-800-Progressive and 1-800-Sandals so heavily advertised on television— while each has perfected their branding with the ideal Dot Com address, Progressive.com and Sandals.com. Yes, this is 2018! Only amateur marketers fail to recognize the value of this tactic. 

Progressive and Sandals are averting the “Google Tax” on search. Phone calls go direct to them and keep prospects off the search engines, saving them millions in search fees! In addition, the closure rates are remarkably higher where human interaction is deployed. This pays for itself.

You may even find it surprising to learn that 1-800-Flowers.Com owns the category domain, Flowers.com, yet drives this category-killing domain into the #1 organic listing that maps their vanity phone number, 1800Flowers.Com. They want you to call. Please! No extraction.

 

Magnetic branding

Yet, brands like Progressive, Sandals, and 1-800-Flowers can only invite prospects to use their preferred contact channel, as consumers will use the channel they like. That’s why is essential to perfect your brand, matching domains with vanity toll free numbers.

We call this Magnetic Branding, where the goal is simple: all roads lead to you. For example, Sandals.com matched with 1-800-Sandals unifies all messaging, so prospects know exactly how to call, text, email, and visit— and are more likely to make direct contact.

Of course, to remain in vogue they would be well advised to move their website to Sandals.Resorts, should that domain become available someday. There's zero downside when you hold all essential domains, the Non Dot Coms and the Dot Coms. Just forward the rest and remember, they all "Dot" the same.

It’s the message that matters. Together with a tradition address for email to minimize human error, the answer is yes; integrate it all. Get a hip, new Non Dot Com to stand out in the crowd, a traditional Dot Com/Net for type-in email and direct navigation, and a toll-free vanity number to call, text, and see, someday soon, with Telex.Live.

Be amazing.