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July 8, 2010

.CO Domain Names Landrush: Boom or Bust?

The new .CO domain name extension is being hyped as a must-have for all business websites. But is it worth the inflated price?

It’s the latest domain name extension to be opened to the public worldwide. Domain name registrars have been hyping the “.CO Landrush” and have even extended this “pre-registration” period an additional three days, to July 16.

In the days of the 1849 California Gold Rush, more miners went bust than boom when seeking that elusive gem stone. Will .CO turn out to be another case of Fool’s Gold?

The fee to reserve a .co name during the Landrush ranges from about $230 to $300 for the first year. I wonder what all the fuss is about. Do business owners who already have their .COM name really need to add a .CO version? And if you really do, can you wait for the general availability period and grab it at a less excessive price ($30 after July 20)?

Or better yet, should you ignore the hype and wait a year or two for the price to settle down to a more reasonable rate like $15 a year?

Let’s look at the hype and the history behind .CO. The .CO domain name extension is the country code of Columbia and this year for the first time, registration has opened to anyone in the world. A partnership between a Columbian and an American company called .CO Internet SAS administers the name. The company  is not under the jurisdiction of ICANN (the organization that manages the assignment of domain names) but they have agreed to follow ICANN guidelines.

Domain name registrars are calling .CO a “secure, sought-after domain.” They say it’s “poised to become the world’s next premier web address.” Hmmm. Didn’t I hear that about the .BIZ domain name a few years ago?

.CO’s offering to the world was phased in starting with existing registrants and Colombian trademark owners. We’re now in the soon-to-end Landrush phase, where anyone who doesn’t mind paying the aforementioned high price can reserve a .CO name. But if more than one person applies for the same name, ownership will be decided through an auction. In this case, the loser’s money (minus an application charge) will be refunded.

Ay-yi-yi, is it worth all the fuss? Reminds me of a similar hype when .BIZ was created in 2001 as the first of a group of new  ICANN- approved domain names. It was touted as the ultimate name for business websites and predicted to become widely adopted as a recognizable domain name extension. It was also expensive.

Now we see the price of a .BIZ name has decreased to the same level as .COMs — but its popularity and recognition is nowhere near the universally accepted.COM.

So rush if you must. But if you can wait until July 20, you’ll face a lot less buyer’s remorse should .CO turn out to be a gold miner’s curse — just another flash in the pan.

Reesa Marchetti  is the Founder and President of Sheer Domain Names,  a division of Sheer Web LLC providing web design and hosting solutions since 1998.