New domain name endings – a thought experiment

I recently wrote about possible hidden motivations behind folks promoting or bashing all new gTLDs (.nyc, .tech, .app, etc.) in an attempt to understand the effect that these new domain endings are having on the web.

In this article I’d like to do a short thought experiment to reframe your perspective, to explore the potential that the new domain endings have, to not only be accepted against .com, but preferred.

Before we start the thought experiment here are some photos I took during July of new gTLDs (.nyc, .jobs, .sale and .health) in use:

I took these photos while driving around (and eating unhealthily) and I wasn’t really looking for domains but they were right in front of me. These new domain endings are all over the place.

Recently, I’ve been spending time on Twitter looking into anyone who is reasonably pro-new gTLD and I came across RB Tewksbury who had the audacity to demand evidence of .com supremacy over new gTLDs – Josh Reason was amused.

Such an unexpected and audacious ask, to put .com on the defensive, it opens up some room to ponder exactly how supreme .com is. Certainly it is the biggest franchise on the planet. It has the highest registration numbers and is the most notorious of website endings. It has been through boom and busts and survived, still going strong. But that doesn’t mean we cannot question its strength and the risks it faces in light of the launch of over a thousand new domain endings.

Here’s where my thought experiment comes in.

Imagine it’s 1995 and .com was available alongside the 1,000+ other domain endings that we now know as new gTLDs.

So imagine back in 1995 you could register,,,,,,,, etc.

  • How would the web have evolved from those early days given all the domain endings?
  • How would the web have been organized?
  • How would domain investing have been different?
  • How would search engines have handled and distinguished the range of TLDs?
  • How would online communities be positively and negatively effected by the use of all these different domain endings?
  • Would the speed of expansion and use of the web have been impacted by the availability of more domain endings in the 90s?
  • How successful would .com have become if it was on the start line with all of these other domain endings at the same time?

Finally, imagine that after 20 years of the web developing with these thousands of domain endings being used, a decision was made to have a single TLD, .com, to be used by all businesses.

  • Obviously folks who had built on domains wouldn’t be happy in this scenario, but how would web users feel?
  • Do you think that web users would prefer to have that restriction come into place?
  • Setting aside all the inconveniences of learning the new locations on the web (as sites would now be moved to .coms) what do you think would be web users’ sentiment to this significant change (limiting domain endings) to the web?

In my opinion, the last question is almost unfathomable. We live in a world where creativity, flexibility and choice is valued. In the scenario mentioned above where the internet started with 1,000+ domain endings, reducing this number to let’s say 10 (.com, .net, .org, .edu, .info, .gov… plus ccTLDs) two decades later seems like a huge step back – and a mistake.

So wouldn’t this mean that the current expansion to the internet naming system will likely find success? Especially over the next two decades?

Comments appreciated.

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