In the latest on the march to rebrand Overstock.com as O.co, the company this week launched O.info, which it is billing as a portal for customer reviews of Overstock.com's—excuse me—O.co's products and services, as well as information about company policies.
As I wrote last November, following consumer confusion over whether to use the domain name Overstock.com or O.co to access the company's website, Overstock announced that it was "stepping back" from its O.co domain. With this latest development, the company appears to be forwarding its rebranding efforts once again. It probably doesn't help with the consumer confusion issue that Overstock.info has been registered to various third parties since 2004.
Despite the inconsistencies and confusion surrounding the O.co rebranding, Overstock's use of the .INFO gTLD as a platform to deliver information and reviews to consumers is an intuitive and memorable use of the gTLD and, with the right marketing, just might be successful—not to mention help its languishing cousin, O.co.
Remember a few months back when online retailer Overstock.com started promoting a new domain name O.co? It began by touting it as its "new shortcut," but recently launched an advertising push declaring "Overstock.com is now O.co." It even had the name of the Oakland NFL/MLB stadium, the Overstock.com Coliseum, changed to the O.Co Coliseum.
But now, according to a recent article in Advertising Age, Overstock is backing off the O.co push, and returning to Overstock.com in online ads and television ads for the holiday season.
Overstock's president Jonathan Johnson was quick to point out that the retailer is not abandoning the short domain altogether – rather, it is just "stepping back" from it temporarily. Apparently, even though consumers appeared to respond well to the O.co ads, many were confused when it came time to type the domain into their browsers. Instead of O.co, a "good portion" of consumers typed in O.com. Like all one-character .COM domains, O.com is not available for registration. So Overstock has decided it will continue its transition to O.co, just at a slower pace; for now it will use the domain for international and mobile efforts.
When .CO Internet S.A.S decided to open up .CO, the ccTLD for Colombia, to second-level registrations by any person or entity in the world in July 2010, some began claiming that it would be a good alternative to .COM. (Previously, entities had to register domains at the third level, using domains like Domain.com.co or Domain.org.co.) And yet, even with a retail giant actively promoting a .CO domain name, many U.S.-based Internet users still default to .COM.
According to Opportunity.co, more than one million .CO domain names have been registered, but that still pales in comparison to the nearly 100 million registered .COM domain names. In fact, many established companies registered their brand names in .CO as more of a defensive move to prevent cybersquatting. While some newer ventures opted to go with .CO (perhaps because the .COM version of their name was taken), it's clear from the O.co case that the ccTLD hasn't really caught on to the extent that some believed it would.
First there was an app to help guys answer that eternal question, “Where the ladies at?” Now, for the truly socially unfortunate who can’t even seem to find a girlfriend using a giant digital compass, there is a brand-new service: FakeGirlfriend.co.
Remember that old line, “Yeah dude, I totally have a girlfriend. You’ve just never met her because she lives in Kansas/Canada/the Alpha Quadrant”? Maybe, just maybe, that used to work back in the days before the Internet or cell phones. You know, back when people used to “go steady” and “write letters.”
But now, in an age where your friends can demand that you show them your “girlfriend’s” Facebook profile on your smartphone to prove her existence, what can you do to avoid being called out on your ruse?
The answer (aside from creating a fake Facebook account using photos from the latest American Eagle catalogue) is FakeGirlfriend.co. Here’s how it works: You save the FakeGirlfriend number in your phone, and then send a text message to that number when your bros start demanding proof. FakeGirlfriend will respond with what it has determined to be a “girlfriend-esque” text, which I can only imagine reads something to the effect of, “Hey baby, you’re soooo cute! XOXO!! <3 ;)” About a minute after you receive the text, FakeGirlfriend will call you with a prerecorded message, and bam! Instant proof of your man-prowess.
Unless of course, you know, you actually attempt a conversation with the prerecorded message. But why would you? Girlfriends aren’t for talking to, they’re for displaying to your homeboys as trophies in homage to your epic pimp-itude.
The real hilarity for me here, even beyond the whole premise of FakeGirlfriend, is that the service uses the domain name FakeGirlfriend.co instead of FakeGirlfriend.com. The .COM domain was apparently not an option for the masterminds behind the service, since it was registered back in 2008. Currently, it resolves to CommercialArt.com. I guess the FakeGirlfriend inventors thought .CO would be a good substitute, seeing as how the Colombian ccTLD has been promoting itself as a viable alternative to .COM.
I believe that about as much as I believe the line about your Canadian girlfriend.
The debate over .CO – whether it can be a viable alternative to .COM or if it is just a gimmick – continues. For example, Overstock.com, the popular online retailer, recently introduced the new O.co domain name, but is billing it as a “shortcut” to the Overstock site rather than a standalone brand.
While reading the TechCrunch blog, I recently came across another example of a company using .CO for an interesting purpose. Go2 Media is a service that connects mobile publishers, local audiences and advertisers through content and location-based advertising. It owns the domain Go2.com and uses it to host its consumer-oriented site. However, the company does not own Go2Media.com – this domain is registered to a Korean man and has no content other than a link to DomainCA, a Korean domain registrar.
Instead, Go2 Media owns and leverages Go2Media.co for its business-oriented site, where it hosts information for publishers and advertisers. What likely happened was, the company saw that Go2Media.com was already registered, and sought a solution. But instead of attempting to reclaim the domain Go2Media.com through UDRP (a search on UDRPsearch turned up no filings over that domain) or other means, the company chose to register Go2Media.co as an alternative. When push comes to shove, though, Internet users in the U.S. are conditioned to affix .COM at the end of Internet addresses, and as such, Go2Media.com receives traffic – undoubtedly visitors seeking the company, not some Korean squatter’s site. At the end of the day, .CO is not a substitute for .COM.
Because ICANN’s new gTLD program will open up the domain name system on a scale that we have never seen before, there has been a great deal of speculation surrounding the implications of the program and the new domain names that it will produce. For example, some have claimed that domain names with new gTLD extensions will rank higher in Google that domains with traditional gTLDs like .COM.
I have to question the accuracy of this claim, and people’s readiness to accept it as fact as opposed to speculation. First and foremost, Google ranks pages according to a proprietary formula that rates a web page’s importance based on the number and quality of outside pages that link to it. This “page rank” is combined with a variety of other factors, including how often the search term (or its synonyms) appears in the page, whether the search term appears in the title, and whether the term appears in the URL of the page, to give each page a score. The pages with the highest scores appear at the top of Google’s results.
Presumably, people who assume that sites hosted on new gTLD domains will rank higher in Google believe this to be true because Google does account for the presence of the search term in the URL of a page in determining the page’s rank. This is why generic keyword domains have the potential to rank highly in searches. For gTLD domains, there will be an additional place for keyword (branded or generic) – to the right of the dot. So given what we know about Google’s ranking system, new gTLD domains could outrank traditional domains in certain searches. But so many other factors come into play that in Google’s ranking that it is difficult to make this claim with absolute certainty.
Moreover, there is no way for us to know what Google has planned for dealing with new gTLDs. Google is obviously highly innovative, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the company adjusted its search and ranking algorithms to account for the presence of new gTLD domains. But, we should not forget that .COM “challengers” are not new and keyword extensions like .TRAVEL have been around for years with little effect. I challenge anybody to show me a .TRAVEL domain that ranks well for popular travel-related search phrases.
Last week marked the 25th anniversary of the registration of the first .COM domain name. Since then, approximately 80 million .COM domains have been registered according to a report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF). Despite an increase in the number of gTLDs available, .COM has dominated and continues to dominate the domain name space, outranking all other global extensions in total registrations.
VeriSign, the registry that runs .COM, held an event to mark the occasion. Both former president Bill Clinton and current ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom attended and were featured speakers. During a panel about the history of the Internet, Beckstrom actually agreed that another gTLD, .NET, is “worthless,” echoing the sentiments of comedian Mo Rocca, who also participated in the panel.
What Beckstrom confirmed about .NET is a commonly held opinion among domain name experts: while not entirely “worthless,” most other gTLDs, not only .NET, are considerably less valuable than .COM. This has everything to do with Internet user behavior and the general brand equity assigned to .COM. Users have been conditioned to append .COM onto everything from company or brand names to place names to generic terms while surfing the Internet. They expect that this will be a fast, direct way to access the content they are seeking.
There are exceptions such as .ORG, which users are generally inclined type in directly when they expect that the content owner is a “.ORG” organization. Country code domains also receive type-in traffic when the user is seeking local country content. However traffic is overwhelmingly headed for .COM sites – 90.2% of Internet traffic is .COM-oriented according to recent research that FairWinds performed for a client.
So what does the assertion that .NET, an extension with over 12 million registrations, is “worthless” mean in the face of ICANN’s plans to launch an unlimited number of new gTLDs? Well for one thing, it should make people question ICANN’s motives. If the head of the organization is agreeing that the second most popular gTLD is “worthless,” then why are ICANN and the businesses that dominate the ICANN community trying so hard to introduce more potentially “worthless” extensions? At this point, ICANN has no proof that Internet users are even interested in utilizing other gTLDs – in fact, if recently released gTLDs like .INFO, .TEL, and .TRAVEL are any indication, Internet users are not interested at all. The motivating factor behind the push for new TLDs is likely pure economics—the push is to see just how many TLDs ICANN can sell and how many domain registrations these companies that control generic or place-name TLDs can sell to businesses and other organizations, domain speculators, and the general public.
If user behavior is a clear indication of user demand, then 90.2% of those online already vote for .COM. As a result, any organization that plans to apply for a new branded gTLD is going to have to put forth a good deal of marketing effort to train their current and future audience to pretty dramatically switch their surfing habits. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be cheap. The next question then is, will new gTLDs really be worth it?