It’s not news that Google has a new “owner” (a new parent company brand – to be exact). What is new is that instead of opting to go with a regular old domain name, Alphabet’s website is located at ABC.XYZ, a domain name and extension combination that plays off the first and last three letters of the – alphabet!
While literally thousands of news websites and blogs announced the launch of Alphabet, almost no one took notice of this interesting, very geeky play on the letters of the alphabet. When it came to the ABC.XYZ domain name, mainly professionals in the domain industry wrote about how one of the world’s largest internet brands chose to go with something other than a .com! We blogged and tweeted about it (mostly to each other)!
Then someone (genius!) registered ABC.WTF and redirected it to Microsoft’s Bing search engine as a joke at the two big companies’ expense. And the media went crazy, with both Wired’s Lexi Pandell and Forbes’ Susan Price writing about how Google’s choice marks a definite switch to the dominance of .com and ushers in the era of ‘alternative’ domain names.
Why Would Anyone Choose Anything Other Than a .Com?
The argument in favour of companies choosing so-called “alternative” domain names instead of the big three (.com, .net, .org) says that these domains offer a chance to brand your company more specifically to its target market, such as Mercedes.Me choosing a .ME domain name to emphasize the “personal” part of their advanced web-based offering for Mercedes cars – or – as in Forbes’ example – Driftaway choosing the .coffee domain name to emphasize how they are all about – tea! Well, coffee… obviously!
Wait Just a Minute…
While this argument makes sense for a lot of domains such as .lawyer or .farm, it didn’t right true with a lot of commentators when mentioned in the context of the very weird .xyz domain name, with one commentator, Joseph Peterson, writing:
Will Wired.com rebrand overnight as Wired.xyz along with millions of other established websites? Amazon.xyz? Ebay.xyz? Facebook.xyz?
Brand Consistency is an Issue!
That’s true, Joseph. Probably not. Its not very likely that a lot of these brands would switch to a new domain name. However, it’s not because they don’t like the new domains name – it’s just that people are used to going to Amazon.com, like old dogs that can’t learn new tricks. Changing anything for an established brand is very, very hard.
Amazon changed its logo over time – slowly. Google also redesigned its brand but always kept the essential look and feel of it in place – because people like it. Just remember how the “internet” reacted when Facebook changed the typography of its logo just a bit.
New Domains Make Sense – When They Make Dollars – and Cents!
Changing a domain name definitely isn’t on the to-do list of a lot of brands, at least not in the way a lot of domain professionals hope it would be. It needs to make strategic sense for brands, which is exactly why you see so many new, fast growing brands choosing new domains – like About.Me using a .ME domain name to explain it’s focus on the user.
In the first sentence of his letter announcing Alphabet, Google co-founder Larry Page emphasizes how “Google is not a conventional company”. The domain name .xyz is the exact right fit for a unconventional new parent company, isn’t it?
The Coca Cola Bottle of Internet Branding
Price’s and Pandell’s argument about companies switching to new, unique domains rings true – for new brands that want to use a domain name as part of their brand identity, much like older brands understood that every part of their product (Coca Cola’s legendary bottle for example) is a part of their brand.
While we can’t have physical brand attributes in the virtual world, we can have domain names – and .com has fast become the old, the usual, the boring choice. For brand professionals brought up in an age when you HAVE to have a website, having a unique domain name feels like a logical choice. Not everyone will want the same domain name, exactly because they didn’t want the same old .com – as everyone else!
The argument that other companies such as Facebook or Ebay wouldn’t use .xyz for their brand is exactly why it makes sense for Alphabet. It’s a logical play on words, a unique and memorable domain extension and makes the whole brand that much more fitting to their “unconventional” mission. If you’re new – you want to stand out!
You have to keep in mind that more and more companies are still going online. Not even national domain extensions, such as Germany’s .De, are enough for brands that want to seem unique in either their country (Everybody uses a .De in Germany) or the global market!
Prediction: The Unique Domain Landrush
Let’s be frank: old domain names, such as .Coms are not going to die as long as there are the “old brands of the internet” to use them.
However, new brands will make use of unique domains that fit their mission and goals, such as Fits.Me or ABC.xzy, in order to stand out from their competition. Saying that everyone is going to jump on domains just because they are different is laughable, but predicting that more (new) brands, both large and small, are going to get new domains – makes as much sense as (the) Alphabet ending with .xyz!