The New Domain Game (aka “The Incredible Suckage of International TLDs”)

“.com” is over. Done. Late. Ceased to exist.

You will be incredibly lucky to find a green dotcom par excellence. All the good ones, the not-so-good ones, and even the outright mediocre ones are taken. So you have two options: buy an existing domain name or venture beyond the dotcom garden into the international TLD jungle. Buying an existing domain name has many of its own challenges, even beyond the sheer cost of the operation. But I’ll leave that aside for now as I want to comment on the fun of international TLDs here.

Let’s get something out of the way first. The TLDs are supposed to represent countries, I know. TV is Tuvalu, ME is Micronesia, etc. Well, sorry purists, but this is 2011 and .com is scarce. In the real world, I opt for cognitive ease over standards worship. The trend started with delicio.us and blo.gs, got steadily bigger over time, and will continue to do so at least until custom TLDs really take off.

The Minefield of International TLDs

Why are international TLDs so tricky to navigate?

  • Each registrar has its own set of TLDs it covers. Due to the bureacracy involved, they will usually just support a smattering of them, so if you’re holding a few names, you better start getting used to maintaining several registrar accounts. Ugh.
  • Some domains seem to only be handled by the original NIC, e.g. .io, so it won’t show up on meta-searches at big registrars.
  • Some domains have a policy of throttling requests at insanely frustrating rates. e.g. .io only seems to allow only about 8 a minute. .gy is similar. I appreciate they don’t want to get hammered, and especially by automated systems, but I don’t know how even legitimate users are supposed to find an optimal domain at that rate. At least offer more lookups via captcha!
  • It’s not clear which registrar manages which TLDs. Their own homepages do little to elucidate on this, often requiring you to perform a domain search before you find out. And even then, their interfaces don’t always make it clear.
  • When registrars do include info on their TLDs, they often break it down geographically – e.g. “European domains”, “African domains” etc.. That’s really irrelevant for most people’s needs. Alphabetical order would make far more sense.
  • There are different rules for each TLD. Some have length restrictions (e.g. .ly apparently no longer allows non-Libyans to register <4 letters). Some require a registered company in the place, etc. Some registrars will accept your order and then complain later (Gandi). Some will silently fail to search for the domain you wanted, instead suggesting other TLDs, without informing you why it didn’t do the search (Dotster).
  • Because of these problems, it’s apparently quite easy to get a high ranking for something like “.mn domain”, so SEOs have come along and made the search problem even more of a challenge. There are sites claiming to let you register a name, but which aren’t actually a registrar. At best, they probably just send your request on to the actual registrar, for a very hefty premium.

A Few Tips

On the whole, .com is still better. If you explain to a non-techie “my website is delicious”, what they’ll hear is “delicious.com”. Even if you say “that’s delicious as in del dot icio dot us”. Even if it’s a simpler name than that. People just equate web addresses with “.com”. this is even true with “.org”, many will still remember it as “.com”. Those perceptions will inevitably change, but not for another decade, which is about how long it took for naked domains – those lacking “www” – to sink in.

Domainr is a good resource. Not so much for the name suggestions, but the list of registrars against each TLD.

Gandi seems to have the most coverage. On the other hand, I’ve had weird experiences with them in the past, which is why I moved away many years ago. Now I just tried registering a domain yesterday, first time I used Gandi in 8 or so years, and it’s stuck listed as “waiting” with no explanation.

Try using whois or direct nic lookups (e.g. nic.io) rather than relying on the registrars, as you’ll find more TLDs.

As always with domains, be cautious about making queries. There’s always the possibility a site operator will yoink it before you get a chance. So “whois” is sometimes preferable or “dig” for the truly paranoid. And if you find a domain that suits, and it’s likely to be desirable, be ready to pounce.

Leave a Reply