Forget All The New gTLD News, Let’s Talk About Changing Habits


Unless you’ve been living in a cave without Internet access (all modern caves have WiFi now right?) then you know that gTLDs are the focus of the Domaining industry right now. Of course there’s good reason for this because nobody really knows what impact an additional 1,900 gTLDs will mean for our industry. You can say .COM is king all you want, and I for one, will agree with you, but you can’t say you know how the world as a whole is going to react to the new gTLDs.

As you all know I’m not a news blog, has always been focused on two things Education and Opinion. That’s right, this darn blog has my name in it which means I’m going to express my opinion. The problem with opinions is that everyone has them, but nobody ever agrees. When it comes to gTLDs there’s a real fire burning with many Domainers and with the big reveal getting closer by the day, it’s only going to heat up even more.

So I wanted to take us away from domain names for a minute and talk about something different yet incredibly relevant. What I want to talk about is habit change. As we all know, .COM is the TLD that everyone knows about and that happens to be a unique button on every iPhone and Android phone out there. While ccTLDs like .DE and .ES, .CA and .COM.AU are stronger in their respective countries, .COM is that TLD that is known all over the world. Ask someone in the US about .DE or .ES and there’s a good chance they’ve never heard of them. Ask someone in Germany or Spain about .COM and there’s an 100% change they know what it is and probably even visited a number of .COM sites that day.

What I’m trying to establish here is a habit, a thing that people do, the dictionary says among other things that a habit is, a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior. Now let’s talk about .COM as a habit at least in North America where it has complete dominance with no other real competing TLDs. When you hear a brand name, you usually expect to find that brand on a .COM. Think about it, you go to an event, hear about a cool new company called XYZ. Typically you’ll go to your computer and type in, if the site that appears is not the company you’re looking for you usually won’t try the .NET, .ORG, etc. instead you’ll go to Google, type in the companies name and find it through search.

This process is important here because it shows a real habit. The habit is to use direct navigation to a .COM as a way to find a brand, if that doesn’t work people typically don’t try other TLDs they just jump to search. This is a habit, a way people have been doing things for a long time, and it’s only exacerbated by the fact that the new SmartPhone in their pocket has a .COM button on it which continues to enforce this habit.

So the real question with new gTLDs is, how hard is it for habits to change? To answer this questions I thought I would examine a few other global habit changes being attempted right now.

Electric Car

Hybrid Cars

Toyota introduced the Prius to the world 12 years ago as the first mass-produced hybrid car. People said that this was going to cause a strong shift to hybrid vehicles and the death of our gas guzzling monster cars. Now 12 years later 2.6% of Americans use Hybrid cars, sure that’s more than 12 years ago but it’s easy to see that this is a habit change that is taking a long time. Add to this the fact that only 35% of hybrid car owners would buy hybrid again and you can see how hard this habit change is going to take. Sure, hundreds of millions of dollars have been put into marketing this, prices have dropped, and gas prices have risen making hybrids even more relevant, still we’re talking only 2.6% of Americans making this habit change.


Mobile Phones

Now let’s talk about another habit change, mobile phones. In 1956 the first automatic mobile phone system was developed by Ericsson. Then in 1960 the first partially automatic car phone was introduced to the market. In April of 1973 the first call was made from Six Ave to the Alliance Capital Building in NYC. Now let’s move forward over twenty years to 1997 and only 4% of the world was using mobile phones. Fast forward to 2012 about 60% of the world is using mobile phones. It took over fifty years to reach a majority but it happened. However mobile phone growth isn’t normal, in fact mobile phones are a phenomenon growing faster than just about any technology the world has ever seen. Still this illustrates how long it takes for people to change habits.

Changing Habits Is Hard!

My point here is a simple one, changing habits is a very hard thing to do. Mobile phones are a great example of one of the most successful and fastest-growing technologies ever developed and it took over fifty years since it’s introduction to truly initiate a global habit change.

So what does this mean for the new gTLDs? It means that while in the long run a habit change may take place, it’s going to take a long time for this to happen. I don’t see Apple making plans to remove the .COM button from their phone and replace it with another TLD anytime soon. I also can’t see consumers hearing about a brand called XYZ and then typing in the brand name with one of 1,900 different TLDs. Yes, you’ll still be able to find these brands with search but now they’ll be in a sea of brands. There might be two-hundred companies called XYZ each owning XYZ.something, how do you know which one is the company you’re looking for?

Last but not least, the biggest advantage that .COM owners have now is owning the brand. That’s right, if your company is called Morgan Enterprises and you own, then you can call your company Morgan Enterprises all day long. However, if you don’t have the .COM and instead have the .NET or .ORG, you’ll end up telling people your business is called or, suddenly the TLD is needed to describe the brand.

I think that some new gTLDs will have a bright future, but as a whole habit changes are hard and this is one habit that is going to be incredibly hard to change. I know everyone wants to own their brand name .something, but what happens when hundreds of other brands decide to use the same name as you? At the end of the day it’s not us, the Domain Investors that need to make a change, heck this is our market we can move quickly…it’s consumers that need to make a change and given than your average consumer hasn’t heard of any TLDs outside of .COM, .NET, .ORG throwing another couple thousand TLDs at them isn’t necessarily going to accelerate this process.

That’s my two cents, what do you think? Comment and let your voice be heard!

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Morgan Linton

Morgan Linton