What Happened To .NET?

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but .NET has really fallen off the map. While there are definitely a few strong .NET sales here and there on a whole I’ve never seen more one-word .NET names on the market and selling for less than ever before. So I asked myself the question in the headline of this post, “What happened to .NET?” and I think I might be able to track the fall of one of the web’s first three big gTLDs.

.CO happened to .NET. That’s right, I said it, .CO out-marketed the heck out of .NET and changed it in the mind of end-users from a viable second choice next to .COM to a well, a TLD they really didn’t care about any more. While this was happening .NET sat there and watched their value in the market slip away, and .CO continued to build up steam in the startup community and beyond.

Suddenly .CO was a hip and much cheaper alternative to .COM and .NET was, well a TLD that many Domainers still held-onto for big bucks, as end-users laughed at their ridiculous prices. Why would an end-user pay so much more for the .NET when the .CO was available for a fraction of the price, oh and it was cool.

So now, after seeing their market slip away .NET has, well, copied .CO’s campaign almost exactly, and started going after the same community that .CO had been mining for years – startups.



.NET’s new ad campaign reads:

.net is a place where big ideas live. A small down payment on your dreams. Millions of startups thrive with a .net behind them, and more start here every day. Whatever you’re cooking up in that big bad brain of yours, .net can help you bring that idea to life. (getyour.net)

This sounds strikingly similar to the campaign that .CO has been using since launch:

The .COmmunity of over one million starters, entrepreneurs, companies and brands is living proof that, when it comes to creating your online presence, having more choices means having more opportunities. Having more opportunities, means more chances to succeed–and who doesn’t want that? (http://www.go.co/about/)

It is clear that .NET saw .CO kicking ass and taking names in the startup world and said, “Hey, what about us?” and rather than coming up with a creative campaign of their own, or a new market to mine, they went directly after the same market as .CO with an incredibly similar advertising campaign.

Another example of this is SXSW which .CO has been going to since launch and .NET suddenly showed up at this year.

Now as you’ll notice .CO is not a sponsor of this blog so I’m not writing this to give them a pat on the back (although I do think they rock), instead I’m doing this to track what’s happened to .NET.

Last week I had a first. I was looking into buying a one-word domain and reached out to the .NET owner, he wanted $3,000 for the name, I then reached out to the .CO owner, he wanted $400,000 for the exact same keyword and wouldn’t budge at all (and both domains were not being used). Now I’m not saying this happens across the board, but this is the first time I’ve seen such a massive price expectation differential on the exact same domain in these two TLDs.

What this could mean for startups is that .CO’s marketing has actually made it more expensive now to buy a .CO than a .NET in many cases since .CO has been marketing like crazy, pushing the value of a .CO name while .NET has been sleeping. This actually could give .NET a surprise advantage now that they’re late to the game, and they’re playing the same game as .CO.

Sure, when .CO launched the idea was a cheap alternative to .COM, but if .NETs are now cheaper is there really an advantage for the startup that wants a specific term and can’t afford the .COM? Like the title said, “What happened to .NET?” .CO happened to .NET, but I think it made them cheaper which is bad for Domain Investors, but good for startups.

Morgan Linton

Morgan Linton