Why App-Makers Care Less About .COM

The world has changed. Rewind just five years ago and you Googled for everything, now there really is an app for just about anything you would want to do. Here’s how prevalnt apps have become – the average smartphone owner in the US has more than 100 apps on their smartphone and spends 127 minutes a day using them (source). While website owners live and die by their Google rankings, app-makers live and die by their app store rankings.

Enter domain names. Take a look at the website for some of your favorite apps, they tend to either give a very quick intro to what the app does or in some cases it just has the logo with badges for which app store(s) you can find the app on. Take Jelly for example which you can see at Jelly.co:

Jelly

As you can see, it’s simple and while you can watch an intro video or browse the navigation at the bottom the focus of the site is clear, get to the app store and download the app. In the case of Jelly it actually also happens to rank #1 in Google for Jelly outranking Jelly.com by a pretty large margin. That being said, Jelly isn’t focused on their Google rankings, they make an app.

Let’s look at one of the other hottest apps out there, Vine, also located on Vine.co:

vine-co

Notice any similarities? Same focus, go to the app store and download the app. Also, just like Jelly, even though Google rankings don’t matter, Vine.co also ranks #1 in Google when you search for Vine. The point? Even though app-makers aren’t focused on Google rankings, plenty of apps rank #1 in Google outranking the .COM version.

So here’s the question. As an app-maker that doesn’t care about Google rankings (and knowing that in fact you can rank #1 in Google without the .COM) why would you care about having a .COM? Heck, Secret.ly just raised $10M on a $50M valuation, yes their called secret, and all you do is go to the app store, type “secret” and there’s the app. Welcome to 2014, a world where all of us have an Internet-connected computer in our pocket and where habits are changing every single year.

I think .COM is king, I think it will always have the highest resale price and the best liquidity. If you invest in domains go .COM or go home. However if you’re an app-maker I think it’s pretty clear now that you don’t need a .COM to be a success.

What do you think? Comment and let your voice be heard!

Morgan

Co-Founder at Fashion Metric
Morgan Linton was born in Berkeley, California but spent nine years traveling the world as an early employee for digital music startup Sonos. In 2007 Morgan founded Linton Investments, a domain name and branding company that has helped some of the most recognized startups in the world acquire their top choice domain name. In 2012 Morgan left his full-time job to co-found Fashion Metric, a startup building technologies that make it easy for online shoppers to buy clothes that fit and arming retailers with more data than ever before.

{ 20 comments… add one }

  • KP March 10, 2014, 9:03 am

    Great eye-opening insight!

  • Mike March 10, 2014, 9:17 am

    Reason is very simple: They are cheap. Period.

  • Morgan March 10, 2014, 9:36 am

    @Mike – I know a ton of app-makers who spend $25,000/month or more on advertising and millions a year on hiring top talent. I don’t think they are cheap, I think they just know how to make the most impact with the money they have.

  • Neil March 10, 2014, 9:52 am

    Shane,
    Good points, and the same can be said of some websites too, but if e.g. vine and jelly were held by a domain investor, as opposed to having established sites on them, do you think the start cheap app developer who made it big would want to own “their” .com?

  • Morgan March 10, 2014, 10:32 am

    @Neil – hehe, Shane’s a good buddy of mine, but I’m Morgan :)

    Good question – I think it depends on the company. At the end of the day investors are laser-focused on growth so if having a .COM will increase growth more than spending that money on something else it’s worth it.

  • Neil March 10, 2014, 10:41 am

    @Morgan (I think)
    D’oh! That’ll teach me to be reading two different blogs (wonder whose the other’s was?) on separate monitors when I should be repairing a database…. :-)

  • Michael March 10, 2014, 11:02 am

    I think it’s just all about simple branding of small words. I am sure if they ever built there apps on to the web they would want .com. It’s not about search engines it’s about typing your domain and finding you on the internet. I bet the majority of people that type in the word jelly are looking for jelly. Look at alexa.com for jelly.com only 8% of there visits are from search so 92% are from type-ins and maybe some links.

  • Andrew Rosener March 10, 2014, 11:28 am

    @Morgan – However, I must say that 3 out of our top 10 sales last year were to App Makers. One of them was for 7 figures and 2 others were in the high 6 figures.

    We also sold numerous other names in the mid to high 5 figures and low 6 figures that went to App companies.

  • Ron March 10, 2014, 11:54 am

    Let me guess app makers care about .xyz lol, this blog is to biased

  • Adam Strong March 10, 2014, 1:10 pm

    Aren’t the vast majority of internet based companies coming online today basically app makers ? More than a fair share of them still opt for .com or switch over to it later as they accelerate and ramp up user base. I’d imagine the choice to purchase the .com later is about consumer reach, shoring up the brand and eliminating the confusion possibilities. There likely is other reasons. It’d be great to ask a company like Instagram team for example why they decided to buy the instagram.com name when intstagr.am was working so well for them.
    In my experience as a domain buyers broker, most are looking at .com and these are heavily app/mobile focused companies. I’ve even offered alt extensions, hacks, etc as an alternative and most say “We’ll go down that path only if we have to”.

  • Kassey March 10, 2014, 2:03 pm

    Is there a simpler way than to visit a website and find out you have to go to your app store, download/install the specific app and regularly update it? Why not just one step — a mobile web — that requires no extra steps for the users?

  • todd March 10, 2014, 2:46 pm

    Your posts are becoming so predictable let’s bash .com and promote every other extension but at the end of every single post you say to only invest in .com. What??

    I would like for you to give some more extremely successful app examples other than Vine and Jelly. Seriously, Vine and Jelly were both launched by the Twitter guys and had the leverage of being heavily promoted apps that don’t even need a webpage because of their Twitter following and this is the only reason they chose .co for each of them. How many other app startups have the push of the behemoth Twitter and their founders.

    If you are a startup launching an app or any other business concept you would be foolish to follow this advice. There are many great .com domains that are affordable so don’t go out and hand register a .ly or .me just because it’s available because you are instantly taking two steps back.

  • Francois March 11, 2014, 2:17 am

    Keep in mind the following:
    – The browser for apps and apps search engine is the apple or android store and there is no need to own any domain to be found.
    – When an apps is advertised in the web, it does not link to a website (domain) but to an entry in the apple or android store for download.

    This is why people involved in the apps world are not specially excited about own a .com .
    So except few exceptions they are not willing to pay a fortune for a .com because they do not understand why they should, and that makes sense. This why they get domains: .io, .me, .co, … and don’t buy in the aftermarket.

  • Todd B March 11, 2014, 4:26 am

    I am an app maker who owns lots of dot coms but I agree. My latest venture is called All Access, but there was no way I could get the dot com. But I got http://AllAccess.US and http://AllAccess.ME as well as http://AccessUS.US and http://AccessME.ME which are great combinations, since our app is about making businesses more accessible… i.e. “Access Us” instead of “Follow Us”, “Like Us” etc… So in some ways, .US and .ME can be better than a dot com.

    However, “.co” is just asking for someone to mistake it for .com.

  • Dan March 11, 2014, 5:08 am

    To those that argue that because of native app stores a website for an associated native app is redundant, remember:

    Apple takes a large cut of the revenues of apps sold and in-app purchases – if I was a native app developer, I’d rather people come through my website whenever possible.

    Multiple Operating Systems , different Smart Phone technologies and now different smart TV OS mean any app developer still needs a central web based place of reference.

    Native Apps aren’t necessarily the dominant player for the future. If local storage or in-phone features are a necessity, than clearly this sets the likely direction for an app developer. However if these are not likely to be heavily leveraged, a single web based code base is by far more preferable and cost effective, and that again points to the importance of a high quality .com

    I’ve also found that the suffix app.com has proven very popular, we have several keyword app.com’s that are attracting a lot of interest, such as FlightStatusApp.com – there are multiple different flight tools out there, and this is the category killer so to speak.

  • Danny Pryor March 11, 2014, 5:31 am

    The utility of the apps or their ability to offer gaming or social interactions has certainly made them indispensable for many entrepreneurs and mobile users. However, there is not a chance an app could replace the online presence of some businesses or media. True, there are plenty of examples of apps supplementing these things, but when it comes to offering a variety of services and interactions, the preferred marketing and media are more likely to be found on a website. Websites require, of course, a domain name. Going forward, I think the capacity of smart phones and tablets to hold more data will be the determinant factor of whether apps can truly replace all websites, but I’m not sure I see that happening right away, particularly in light of the cost of bandwidth for users who may need to interact, in real time, with certain databases or other data-intensive downloads or streams. Bandwidth still comes at a premium when accessing premium levels of data, and for that, a wifi or a tether still suffice. Websites and apps definitely complement each other, but apps are still an evolving technology, just like the web, itself. I daresay apps are still in their incipience. It may be apps eventually replace the present incarnation of the web interface, altogether; only time and user trends will tell.

  • Morgan March 11, 2014, 9:25 am

    Excellent points @Francois and completely agreed!

  • Company Names Ideas March 11, 2014, 10:39 am

    This is an excellent article, but one of the strongest points that we make for .COM ownership is email security. How many times a day do you think Vine.com gets emails intended for vine.co, especially since they are a .co; one letter off on an e-mail address and you are talking about a supreme communications catastrophe. We’ve had such incidents with some of our properties. We get multi-million dollar invoices intended for a company with a similar domain (can’t share domain for privacy purposes). App makers can start with a .whatever, however once they are a huge presence they need to buy the .COM. I can’t see a situation where you wouldn’t want to own a .COM unless you are doing a country specific business using a county code domain.

  • Interneteur March 11, 2014, 11:18 am

    Morgan, I agree as a person who has his hands in a lot of things. But you point out vine, which I believe we could all agree is one of the larger apps out there. Just figured I would leave this image for food for thought http://screencast.com/t/7UqNb56Uo3T

    As you can see, the company doesn’t need the .com, but because of them the .com gets about 4x the volume. So as the app grows it allows for some one else to capitalize on its success. So yeah its not necessary, but it is a significant amount of leakage. If it was a eCommerce app, or something along those lines the amount of visitors that would be lost would equate to millions…

  • Adam Strong March 12, 2014, 12:18 pm

    An app may just be one part of your overall businesses strategy. If you are a consumer facing brand, having a home-base on the internet for your company at .com is the best decision you’ll make. If you’re just making an app and that’s your only direction you take your vision leads you, then I’m sure any old domain will do.

    Creators of apps like Vine.co and Jelly.co, that are being used as examples of “see they don’t need a .com”, have a great deal of equity that they’ve built up in other venues that they can use to easily get the ball rolling. If you are a new company creating an app, realize this please : You are not Twitter or Biz Stone. You do not have their massive PR and marketing machine at your disposal to open doors and promote your app.

    A solid .com DOES open doors, help get the word out and add value to your offering. Consumers won’t get confused and go elsewhere when you appear on The View promoting your company. When you roll out a new service that hooks in to other web-based services, your users won’t get confused. Your marketing department will thank you when you grow large. Your investors will thank you for thinking of this now.

    Maybe if an app maker shouldn’t really care about what domain they use, they shouldn’t care about their website at all. Their site will be used to showcase what their app does. It’s used to appeal to the consumer and show them WHY they should download this app. It’s used to attract investors and as mentioned before if the company has bigger plans, it’s likely going to be used to expand the product offerings. But really a company creating an app needs a web presence to attract customers just like any other business and the best way to reach a consumer is still 100% .com

    It would be great to ask the founders of these companies about their choices.

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