Paul Graham, the highly regarded programmer, venture capitalist, essayist, and co-founder of the Y Combinator seed capital firm, recently wrote “Change Your Name,” a blog post in which he asserted that every startup should use the traditional .com web address ending.
According to Graham, “If you have a U.S. startup called X and you don’t have X.com, you should probably change your name.”
Clearly, he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to entrepreneurship, but with all due respect to Mr. Graham, I believe he’s coming at this from the wrong angle.
The Benefits of New Alternatives
There are four potential benefits to going with one of the new alternatives to .com rather than changing your name.
First of all, the Internet is global. If you want to make an impact outside of U.S. borders, you should acknowledge that the notion that .com is the only valid ending for a website address is a fairly America-centric mindset. Consumers throughout the rest of the world are quite accustomed to seeing alternative endings to the right of the dot — especially their local country code top-level domains.
The second benefit of alternative endings is that you can use the correct spelling. The first time a startup dropped a vowel in its name to score a domain, it was a cool, effective way of not only getting the desired URL, but also standing out from the crowd. But just because that idea worked for a company like Flickr doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. Instead of changing your name to accommodate the .com, you can keep your correctly spelled name and find an alternative ending that will accentuate it.
Third, you can more effectively communicate your domain’s meaning. If your brand is going to succeed, it needs a memorable website name that delivers real meaning. Some made-up or intentionally misspelled word might be unique, but will it actually be remembered? With the new domain name options, you can put a complete word on both sides of the dot to create a more holistic (i.e., not so easily forgotten) address that also provides significant meaning.
Finally, you can find a domain that’s available for less. When it comes to naming your company with a real word, there’s a pretty good chance the corresponding .com address has already been registered. And, while you might be able to purchase it, the price may be too steep for a young startup.
Consider how the drone startup Lily solved this issue. The website name Lily.com had already been taken by an established logistics company. Instead of trying to wrangle that address for itself, the company elected to go with Lily.camera. This address not only speaks directly to its product, but it’s also more meaningful and memorable. At the time of this writing, the company’s launch video had scored more than 9 million views, so it’s obviously working.
Thinking Outside the .com
In many cases, Graham is right — a .com ending would be the preferred address, if reasonably available. But depending on your company and industry, more meaningful alternatives might actually have more impact.
Consider highly successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur Justin Kan, who founded Justin.tv and Twitch.tv (which, interestingly enough, received seed funding from Graham’s Y Combinator right before he wrote his “Change Your Name” blog post). The latter ended up being sold to Amazon for $ 970 million, and Kan has gone on to found other successful businesses using non-traditional domain names, such as the electronic dance music site TheDrop.club.
There are many more examples of startups and entrepreneurs that have found success by thinking outside the .com, and as more alternative endings become available, that trend will only grow.
If you can’t secure the .com address you thought your startup needed, don’t panic and immediately jump to changing your brand name. Instead, consider giving it even more impact with a unique top-level domain name.
After all, who isn’t intrigued by an alternative ending?Digital & Social Articles on Business 2 Community