How Did .ME Become a Generic Top-level Domain?

How Did .ME Become a Generic Top-level Domain?

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If you’re thinking about registering a domain name and launching your own website, you need to fully understand your options in order to make an informed decision about it.

At a first glance, domain names might not sound as the most exciting topic in the world, but you’d be surprised to see how comprehending the nuts and bolts of the domain name industry can be useful for you and your business; particularly in the context of online visibility and branding.

There have been a lot of misconceptions regarding the security of certain domain names and the trustworthiness associated with them. In addition, people don’t really get the difference between country code top-level domains (ccTLD) and generic top-level domains (gTLD), nor the separate benefits these two choices bring

In case you didn’t know, .ME is the country code top-level domain for Montenegro. This extension was assigned to Montenegro as country code in 2007, one year after this country declared independence from Serbia and Montenegro.

However, there was an undeniable creative potential for the global use of .ME, especially in sense of personal branding and domain hacks, which lead to it being treated as a generic top-level domain.

First Thing’s First: What is a ccTLD, and What is a gTLD?

As we all know, top-level domains are parts of a domain name that are located right of the dot; they are also called domain extensions and they are a part of what people type in their browser bars in order to access a certain website.

Country code top-level domains (ccTLD) are reserved for a specific country, sovereign state, or a territory that’s legally defined within a country code. Examples of ccTLD include .EU, .US, .UK, and of course – .ME (but we’ll get to .ME in a bit).

Generic top-level domains (gTLD) do not have any geographic or country-specific use (at least they didn’t until a couple of years ago but that’s another story), which makes them a different category. In fact, they were first called generic to underline the difference between them and ccTLDs.

Today, there are over 1500 TLDs available. But, how did we get to such an extensive number? Here’s a brief overview of key historical events to help you get a broader context.

Back in 1984, a set of “general purpose domains” was published, which included domains such as .com, .net, and .org. Despite their originally defined purpose (e.g. .com for commercial websites, .org for organizations), they are now being used for any type of website.

Today, there are over 1500 TLDs available. But, how did we get to such an extensive number?

Since the mid-nineties, IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) has invited applications from all interested parties in order to expand the number of TLDs and introduce more versatility to the Internet. ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has also added quite a few new TLDs to the pool of existing ones. In 2008, it made a new decision of historical importance by allowing brands to register themselves as TLDs, while in 2011, it launched a new generic TLDs program.

So, as you can see – the Internet is a very dynamic place that constantly grows and changes.

New top-level domains emerge in order to increase web naming options. They don’t change the fundamentals of how the Internet works, but they do change the way we find information online.

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How Does Google Treat ccTLDs?

Having a country code top-level domain can help your customers perceive your website as more trustworthy if they are interested in buying local.

Country code top-level domains are mainly used to geotarget a certain website, so in that sense it has SEO value for local search. Search engines return the most relevant results based on the IP address of the user who has submitted a search query. When you use a ccTLD, you are strongly signaling search engines that you’re targeting a certain country or region.

So, for example: if you are searching for “iphone price uk”, you are likely to encounter a website that is geographically specified, i.e. that has .uk in its domain.

It is important to know that, if you choose to target different countries and register several ccTLDs (for example, .uk, .fr…) – you need to build authority on each of them, separately. It’s not enough to build recognition for your brand on just one of your websites, but you have to invest an equal amount of effort for every separate domain.

There are also certain restrictions, meaning there are rules regarding registration and renewal; not everyone can register every ccTLD out there. With a generic TLD, users can also specify which countries are important to them within the Country tab (in the International Targeting report).

But, Where Does That Put .ME?

Domain .ME is originally a ccTLD used within Montenegro, but it has also become globally recognized and gained high popularity – regardless of the location. Word “me” can be easily combined with other words in order to form a call to action or to signal online visitors just how original the website is. You can get creative and craft a funny saying that will make your domain name memorable, or you can make .ME a part of your brand name. The possibilities are practically endless.

By 2010, over 320.000 .ME domains have been registered, which made it the fastest selling debut ccTLD in history.

But what’s interesting here is that the majority of interest came from English speaking countries: 71% of registrants were from the US, followed by UK, Canada, and Australia. The government of Montenegro has made a wise choice to market .ME as a generic domain.

By 2010, over 320.000 .ME domains have been registered, which made it the fastest selling debut TLD in history.

Due to these vast possibilities for differentiating themselves from others with .ME, webmasters all over the world have registered this TLD. Given the fact Google always follows how users are acting and adapts to their behavior, it started perceiving .ME as a generic TLD and added it to a list of ccTLD receiving the same treatment:

Google treats some ccTLDs (such as .TV, .ME, etc.) as gTLDs, as we’ve found that users and webmasters frequently see these more generic than country-targeted.

This means .ME websites have become easier to reach and not necessarily limited to one specific region. So, .ME is actually kind of a hybrid. Pretty cool, right?

In the SEO context, .ME is search-friendly, trustworthy, and spam-free domain, completely safe to register.

With .ME, you can:

  • Create a domain hack that’s easy to remember
  • Create a call to action that will help you stand out
  • Create a custom short link and reinforce the trust around your website
  • Take control of your personal brand by placing your name and surname left of .ME
  • Make .ME an integral part of your brand name

(PST, check out other clever ways you can use .ME to build a remarkable online presence)

In order to make the most out of your online presence, you need to educate yourself and take control of the way your brand – business or personal – is perceived.

In the SEO context, .ME is search-friendly, trustworthy, and spam-free domain, completely safe to register.

In fact, many users could benefit from informing themselves about new shifts in the world of Internet. There are a lot of prejudice still; the lack of knowledge easily creates fear, which makes great business opportunities go to waste.

Today’s market is overly saturated and your greatest chance of excelling is differentiation. If you’re in the process of job hunting, you need to show your potential employers you are both smart and unique, which makes you a rare bird in the sea of sameness. If you’re a company that wants to be there for customers – you have to humanize your tone and make your business more personal.

Are you ready to join the successful ones? You can do that, with .ME!


Goran Bogunovic

Now, you're probably wondering how I got here! Running a marketing agency, educating people about branding, and helping you to develop your own presence online. To understand, you’ll need to follow me @Domain.Me

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