The dotcom bubble burst in the late 90’s, of course, and many of these generically named companies went down with it. (Interestingly, many of these generic names are now owned by branded companies. Pets.com, for example, was purchased by PetSmart.)In the year 2000, other TLDs were released (.us, .info, .tv, .biz), but by that time, people were pretty much conditioned to think of the .com extension as the most important, most credible type of domain name to have.
The tidal wave of companies that emerged in the new century began plundering available .com names at a frenetic rate. Also significant were the domain name speculators, who have purchased–and are sitting on–tens of thousands of valuable one-word “dictionary” names. Today there are more than 64 million domain names. According to some experts, every prima facie, properly spelled word of up to six characters is now unavailable with a dot com extension. Or, perhaps even more alarming, others say that 98% of all dictionary words are now unavailable as dot com names.
Like any property in finite supply, prima facie domain names have become extraordinarily valuable. Business.com sold for $7.5 million. Sex.com traded hands for $12 million. Not every one-word domain name will command that kind of money, but companies who need to buy a one-word dotcom domain to match their company brand name will likely shell out tens of thousands of dollars, if not more.
So what’s a company to do?
Choose a word and tweak the spelling (Flickr). Frankenstein a brand name (Agilent = agile + -ment). Or just make up a word. Any word will do. The goofier sounding, the better.
As long as we can get the .com domain name, they think, it’s all good.
Except now there’s such a proliferation of made-up, incomprehensible, misspelled and vapid brand names, the potential distinctiveness of each individual name is largely lost. Every new gibberish name is just another drop in a great big bucket of twaddle.
But there’s hope for companies seeking a memorable brand and a strategic domain name. Our oversaturated, overmarketed collective consciousness has created opportunities for naming by companies too smart to go down the road of meaningless brand names.
To be continued.