I didn’t expect to spot a domain trend when I attended Mad Props, “a night of live storytelling to help us all understand the state propositions on the 2018 California ballot,” held Monday at a funky club near San Francisco’s Civic Center. Honestly, I just wanted to become a better-informed voter. But the trend was too obvious to ignore.
When I checked in I picked up a voter guide published by BytheBay.cool (“Our mission is to transform residents into citizens”); inside was a printed link for voters outside San Francisco, Ballot.fyi (“We're tired of the constant news about Trump. Luckily, California gives us 11* semi-ridiculous ballot initiatives to vote on and make fun of. We'll break them down for you, explain what different sides are saying and why your vote actually matters”).
Note the verbing of “ballot.”
One of the evening’s speakers represented a new-to-me organization called Movement Voter Project (MVP), which “works to strengthen progressive power at all levels of government by helping donors – big and small – to support the best and most promising LOCAL community-based organizations in key states – with a focus on youth and communities of color.” MVP’s URL: Movement.vote.
And to turn this bonanza into a quadfecta, this evening I’m going to a talk given by Danny Altman, the founder of Airlift, which “lets you fund organizations without consultant overheads—groups you can feel comfortable investing in and sharing.” It might have been Airlift.org or Airlift.net, but it isn’t: It’s Airlift.fund. (Airlift is supported by the Movement Voter Project; Danny is also the founder of A Hundred Monkeys, one of the Bay Area’s pre-eminent naming and branding agencies.)
Dot-cool, dot-fyi, dot-vote, and dot-fund are examples of non-.coms: generic top-level domains (gTLDs) that tell a story. When I wrote about non-.coms in 2015, I counted 302 alternatives to the “classic” 1990s-or-older domain extensions: .com, .org, .net., .edu, .int., .gov, and .mil. Today there are nearly 1,400 dot-com alternatives, including country domains (.no for Norway, .id for Indonesia, .ee for Estonia); brand domains, from .aaa (American Automobile Association) and .amex (American Express) to .xfinity (Xfinity) and .zara (Zara, the global fast-fashion behemoth); professional domains (.actor, .athlete, .engineer, .florist); sports domains (.baseball, .surf, .basketball, .rugby, .fans); and what I think of as metaphysical domains (.exposed, .life, .now, .wow, .today, .blue). There’s a domain suitable for Halloween (.boo), a domain for memorial sites (.rip), a domain for tattoo artists (.ink), and a domain that could work for pilots, astronomers, meteorologists, or certain Polish-surnamed people (.sky). Do you like beer? There’s a domain for that, too.
My friend Susan Bercu registered susanbercu.art to showcase her portfolio. Another friend bought dogwood.xyz** just because she likes it. (She hasn’t developed the site.) If I were (even) more self-absorbed, and inclined to spend $1,400 a year, I could register NancyFriedman.nf – dot-nf being the country code of Norfolk Island, a tiny Australian territory with a population of just over 2,000.
Most of my naming clients still insist on dot-com, and in many cases the alternatives would be inappropriately whimsical. But if your brand identity incorporates innovation and creativity, you may want to take another look at the world beyond dot-com. One place to start is donuts.domains; another is Name.com. My standard caveat applies: Don’t assume that just because a domain is available the brand name is legally available. Do a thorough search, preferably with the advice of an experienced trademark lawyer.
* There’s a Proposition 12 on the ballot, but no Proposition 9 which means there’s a total of 11. No, I can’t explain it. (Update: Yes, I can. Proposition 9, which would have divided California into three states, was removed from the ballot.) I’m just grateful I don't vote in Florida, where ballot propositions are — get this — bundled. If you vote yes on Amendment 9 this year, for example, you’re approving a ban on offshore drilling and a ban on indoor vaping.
** The most famous .xyz domain is probably abc.xyz, owned by Alphabet, Google’s holding company.