The king of extensions is .com, and dethroning it won't be easy. But one day soon .com will have a genuine competitor, and there are two things we already know about the competition. First, the newcomer will have been sold as an underdog. Second, it will have attracted businesses that are passionate about being content-quality leaders.
In the minds of many consumers, .com signals quality and global presence that give it a mystical authoritativeness. This mystique puts network effects in motion. Consumers seek .com Web sites as their primary destination target, which provides incentives for Web sites to register domain names under .com, which in turn increases consumer visits to .com sites, and so on.
But there's a catch, and therefore an opening for rival extensions. The more domain names there are that use .com (currently over 80 million), the harder it becomes for potential customers to find the destination site and to believe that the companies' offerings are bound to be high quality. Hence, an opening.
But the new competing Top-Level Domain (TLD) must have a unique personality. A clear and focused signal/message is good, of course, and the emotional touch always helps. But the key is to make clear that you're the underdog. (For an example of the underdog advantage, see a recent HBR article by Keinan, Avery, and Paharia.) Otherwise, a diffuse TLD signal will generate confusion, and thus limit its adoption. After all, one of the main reasons for the expansion of Internet extensions is to provide a viable alternative for Web sites that are unable to register their desired .com or cannot afford to buy one on the secondary market. Nevertheless, such a competitor must immediately start marketing the TLD.
On their part, owners of domain names under the new TLD must also market their sites as the underdog to the .com Web sites. However, for the underdog strategy to work, Web sites using the new TLD must be passionate and determined to provide superior quality to those under .com.
By Alex Tajirian, CEO at DomainMart