It’s been almost fifteen years now since the web first hit it’s tipping point and transitioned from an academic’s playground and a mere curiosity for the average person to the decidedly mainstream global change agent that now drives trillions of dollars in global value creation annually. During that time we’ve gone from asking "What’s this ‘World Wide Web’ thingy the geeks keep talking about?" to rapidly seeing Web-based services dominant the activities of practically every business person alive. In the days of the first Internet "gold rush" a.k.a. the "dotcom bubble" it seems that everyone and their brother grabbed a .COM domain, or ten, and set out to strike it rich. Back then you really didn’t even consider getting anything besides a .COM for your website business but that was okay because many good brand names could be created from still available .COM domains.
Fast forward a decade and great .COM domain names have became scare and even good .COM domain names are hard to come by especially with all the domain squatters. In addition a lot more top-level domains have opened up, and many small countries such as Tuvalu (.tv) have decided to cash in on their (un)natural resources. And just as fashions change, some creative types who needed a good domain name chose to forgo the .COM status quo and the "www." sub-domain convention and instead compose domain names from words by ignoring the domain level separators (i.e the periods ".") From this trend popular websites with domain names like http://del.icio.us (aka "delicious") were born.
If you are not familiar with delicious it is essentially a website to store your web bookmarks, but storing them "in the cloud" as opposed to in your browser. And one of it’s best innovations, since mimicked by thousands of other sites, it the ability to allow users to categorize with freeform "tags" and later recall their bookmarks by the tags they assigned. These tags are just words, any words your chose, such as "marketing", "video", "php", "bestpractices" or even "shoes." What words you use to tag with is totally up to you.
I’ve been using delicious for several years now and at this point not a day goes while surfing the web that I don’t tag at least one website for future reference. You can even use it to create lists of sites groups by a tag and then send those links to others so they too can see your list of links. But I digress; there is a lot more to delicious but the subject of this post is the .COM domain so we’ll my detailed description of del.icio.us for another day.
As delicious got more popular with the many influencers on the web, Yahoo stepped in and bought them. Since then delicious has languished for years, still there but never updated. Probably the best thing that has happened to delicious during that period was Firefox built delicious tagging into their browser as their favorites list — if you choose to let Firefox use delicious for you — and the fact that since it hasn’t changed it’s been a pretty stable target for people who wanted to use to delicious API to create add-on functionality and integrations.
So, after years of languishing it turns out Yahoo has been paying attention to delicious behind the scenes, and behold; there is a new delicious!  What’s more, Yahoo has redirected all attempts to access delicious at http://del.icio.us to instead find delicious at http://delicious.com/ and thus, in one fell swoop, have extinguished the quirky domain name that was in part why the web’s tastemakers first took note of delicious. The powers that be at Yahoo probably choose to do this because of usability data I expect they’ve collected that probably told them that the "in crowd" got the funny spelling but that the vast majority of users were simply confused.
Which brings me to the crux of my post where I posit the following:
Are .COM domains still required for commercial success in a mainstream website? Or or those rushing to get domain names with all the new top level domains simply exercising futility? Were all these idiosyncratic domain names merely a fad and now we’re back to business with .COM, or did Yahoo jumped the shark on this one?
So what do you think?
- Frankly I’ve long thought delicious to be Yahoo’s secret weapon with Yahoo just not yet realizing it. And it’s no wonder they haven’t realized it as anyone who’s paid attention what the critics have been saying about Yahoo being spread too thin. But that is all an entirely different topic and way beyond the scope of this post, yet again.
- While part of me feels the pang of loss from this change and what it may imply about the use of other non-.COM domains, I find that I quite prefer using http://delicious.com when compared to the original http://del.icio.us domain.