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Singular and plural top-level domains: Are you confused yet?

The more domain strings are released on the Internet, the more confusing the new generic Top-Level Domain (new gTLD) program becomes for businesses that want to build their online presence. Not only do companies struggle to determine which gTLD to choose from the many options that might seem relevant to their business, they now have to choose between singular and plural versions of the same string.

For those who may not be aware, last year ICANN approved the coexistence of both single and plural versions of a variety of new gTLDs, despite industry concerns that this might create potential consumer confusion and cybersquatting. As a result, we now have more than 36 new gTLDs that fall into this category. Some examples include: .career(s), .car(s), .coupon(s), .deal(s), .fan(s), .game(s),.gift(s), .loan(s), .new(s), .pet(s), .photo(s)/.photography/.camera, .property(ies), .review(s), .sport(s), .supply(ies), .tour(s), .work(s) , as well as 44 close alternatives and variations such as .build(ers), .engineer(ing), .finance/.financial, .fish(ing), .flower/.florist, .fit(ness), .fly/.flights, .film/.movie,.host/.hosting, .insure/.insurance, .law/.lawyer, .live/.living, .luxe/.luxury, .pics/.pictures, .realestate/.realty, .rent/.rentals, .site/.website,.shop(ping), .tech/.technology, .trade/.trading, .vote/.voting, and .wed/.wedding, to name a few. That’s a significant number! 

I have closely followed the developments in the new gTLD program. I’ve been an industry analyst for 14 years, I’m educated, curious, and I consider myself tech-savvy. However, for the life of me, I cannot understand the difference between singular and plural versions of the same gTLD, and I would certainly not dare to advise anyone on whether to pick one over the other. In fact, my advice would be to avoid new gTLDs altogether and look for a better alternative -- a more established domain, with significantly fewer risks for consumer confusion. I’ve been pretty consistent with my position on .com and how that’s still the way to go for businesses today, and the rise of pluralized gTLDs only strengthens my position. 

New gTLDs entering the market have to invest significantly in marketing in order to grab consumer and business attention and position themselves as a valid alternative to more established TLDs and country-code TLDs (ccTLDs). Singular and plural new gTLDs face an additional hurdle as they now have to also compete against a very close alternative for the same customer in the same vertical. Would you like to put your business in the middle of that fight? I wouldn’t. 

But this has further implications. This practice puts the burden on the registrants, forcing them to buy two, three or potentially limitless domain names when they may only need one. And it also creates a credibility issue for the new gTLD program. Who guarantees that in a few years we won’t see plurals for all current new gTLDs, forcing registrants to do more defensive registrations to avoid losing traffic to a similar company doing business in an almost identical domain name? And why does ICANN believe that causing consumer confusion and forcing defensive registrations are acceptable? Money is probably at the heart of that answer.

The truth is that new gTLDs face a tough road ahead, and new gTLD registries will go to any length to increase registrations and revenue. Be mindful of that when you’re planning your online marketing strategy and don’t get caught up in the confusion. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - don’t take any unnecessary risks and jeopardize your online presence and business viability by registering your business in a domain that your customers and prospects won’t trust. Established TLDs like .com have taken decades to build their brands and earn consumer trust to stand the test of time. This is something that you shouldn’t overlook.

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