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.


{ 22 comments… add one }

  • nick capece October 31, 2012, 9:13 am

    Good stuff Morgan. As an owrner of some developed .net niche sites its truly disheartening to see the lack of real traction year after year. I’m wondering if anyone can share a .net site they regularly use or visit or perhaps simply come to mind? For me, my ISP optimum.net

  • owen frager October 31, 2012, 9:15 am

  • Ron October 31, 2012, 9:37 am

    .net, drop and roll… I had a end user buy a .org from me yesterday for low 4 figures, why they did not even want to pay reg fee for a unregistered .net, .com was unattainable at their current budget.

  • Jon October 31, 2012, 9:38 am

    Domainer scum. Fucking blight on the internet. Die in a fucking fire.

  • AHEAD OF TIME October 31, 2012, 10:25 am

    Moment I knew all these new gTLD’s
    were coming out I dropped 99% .net domains. I’m very happy I did
    and it’s made my dot coms shine so bright I have to wear sun glasses.

    Bet Rick is wearing his smartglasses.com

  • Joe October 31, 2012, 10:52 am

    Nice article. .Net would have been a great alternative to .com if marketed properly 10+ years ago. Unfortunately it is too late now. It makes me laugh when big time .com domainers tell others to avoid .CO and stick to the “big 3”, while they’re the first ones to treat .NET as .com’s ugly stepsister.

  • Brad Mugford October 31, 2012, 11:02 am

    .NET has been around for 25+ years and has 15M+ regs.
    It has broad awareness, and heavy usage, unlike .CO.

    Stick a .CO up on a billboard and see how many people go to .COM, because the vast majority of the world has no idea .CO even exists. Ask Overstock how it worked out.

    There is no comparison between .NET and .CO when it comes to value, awareness, or usage.


  • Brad Mugford October 31, 2012, 11:17 am

    “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).”

    So your sample size is one domain?

    If I ask 1M for Turd.mobi and the .COM owner asks $50K does that mean the .MOBI is more valuable?

    Considering very few .CO have sold for $XX,XXX and even fewer for mid $XX,XXX and none have been reported sold for $400K, I am just going to assume the owner wants a ridiculous price.


  • Konstantinos Zournas October 31, 2012, 11:54 am

    I don’t think .co happened to .net.
    .net was never going anywhere.
    .net was always third in my mind from the first 3. Then when .info and .biz came it became 4th tied with .biz. That is of course a personal preference. Since 2008 I very rarely buy .net. Nowadays I only buy them for my projects when I have already bought all other TLDs.
    Like Ron said, I sell .orgs all the time and I see .nets unregistered or priced very cheap that don’t get purchased. I have a lot of trouble moving .nets.
    .co didn’t need a lot of marketing to begin with. It is very close to .com and a lot of countries were already familiar with it. It is used in many ccTLDs with the most known being .co.uk.

  • Tony October 31, 2012, 12:02 pm

    Yeah, whatever. Keep dropping those premium .net’s and I will pick them up.

  • Samit October 31, 2012, 1:21 pm

    Even if the price was the same, I’d go for the .net, specially if it was for development.

    At 3k for the .net v/s 400k for the .co, it’s a no brainer to go for the .net

    Leave the $400k pipe dreamers to their dreams, most domains aren’t worth that much, certainly no .co domains, no matter how much they spend on marketing.

  • Rich October 31, 2012, 2:14 pm

    Nice post,I congratulate you for standing up on the .co issue,were some veterans don’t feel the same way.
    I’m personally concentrated in LLL.CO more then one word english words.
    Reason? I don’t limit my portfolio only to US market but to the entire world.

    Joe is right .net should have advertise this ext.more aggressively 10 yrs ago.
    This is what i think:

    1.I think the advantage of .co is that they are not near close to 16 mil. registered .net’s domains,so you can still get a nice .co for $10 vs.a .net registered for sale.

    2.For the registry it’s good that there is no after market because businesses can register a good domain and developed it at this makes the ext.stronger.

    3.Today you can get a nice one word premium domain under $3k

    4.Whether it’s $10 or $3k for the same domain i would pick in a heartbeat (example) customflooring.co vs customflooring.net and so on….

    If you are going to loose traffic to .com you will loose it in the .net tld as well or .me or any other ext.
    .CO goes beyond US markets and that is the win of .CO

  • Jacek October 31, 2012, 2:33 pm

    Great observation Morgan. Just by looking at GoDaddy’s main page one can easily tell which gTLD’s are the no1 and no2 thesedays. It looks as if .co is almost equal to .com. Certainly it is hotter than the rest of gTLDs.
    I knew .co would take the no.2 global spot eventually. The only gtld that stands a chance is .xxx if either ICANN or the Government forced porn business to implement it for all their porn websites

  • Morgan October 31, 2012, 6:12 pm

    Great comments everyone, really good discussion going on here.

    @Brad – you made some really excellent points and are absolutely right, a sample size of one isn’t very meaningful! As for brand awareness I know a number of startups that would rather have a .CO than a .NET since .CO has marketed like crazy at startup events…do you think this has any bearing on the discussion?

    Also – to keep the conversation going, does anyone think that .CO’s heavy marketing in the domain space only hurt them when Juan did that interview saying he did not want .CO to turn into another Domain Ghetto?

    I thought this was interesting, they promoted to Domainers like crazy out of the gate, and then went to startup events and said that it was the TLD they could go out and hand-register since they weren’t promoting to Domainers…

  • Rich October 31, 2012, 9:48 pm

    Answer to your question it’s kind of hard.I think it’s a catch 22 thing here.

    Because Juan made a bad name to domainers,some domainers made a bad propaganda on the .co extension.
    O.CO did not help and that was the ammunition to the second market fall on the .co names.
    This is all bad for .co investors.

    As i mention above the good part of all this is that consumers get their domains at $10 they develop their names and that will create a stronger extension.

    My take:Hold on to your premium .co’s for another 5 years,then you’ll be fine

  • Brad Mugford October 31, 2012, 10:37 pm

    “I thought this was interesting, they promoted to Domainers like crazy out of the gate, and then went to startup events and said that it was the TLD they could go out and hand-register since they weren’t promoting to Domainers…”

    Well they marketed .CO to domainers initially because that is who they knew would buy them.

    They learned from previous launches. .MOBI, .TEL, . ASIA, etc. It was the same initial hype that happened with any other extension.

    They all had their fanboys who would purchase domains and think they struck gold while endlessly hyping the extension AKA Robert Cline types.

    Then when the domainer well ran dry and the use for them was over, Juan Calle dissed the group that were responsible for the vast majority of .CO regs, the domainers.

    Rick Schwartz and others instantly called it for what it is – http://www.ricksblog.com/my_weblog/2012/05/juan-calle-of-the-co-registry-disses-domainers.html. It forced Juan Calle to backpedal.

    They are marketing to small business now because what other choice do they have? The domainer hype stage is over. Domainers who want to own .CO basically already own them.

    They need to bring in new registrations or the drops will outpace the renewals.


  • Luke November 1, 2012, 12:33 am

    Personally, I’d take a .net over a .co.

    Most non-domainers I talk to still don’t even know what .co is. They do know what .net is though. Broader consumer recognition is what makes .net a whole lot more valuable in my opinion, not to mention the .co bleed to .com.

    I’ve moved away from buying anything other than .com (and a small number of ccTLDs for my businesses), but ironically my last sale was a .net domain.

  • Morgan November 1, 2012, 10:41 am

    @Brad – I think you hit the nail on the head. Great comment and well said!

  • Rich November 1, 2012, 10:52 am

    ” They are marketing to small business now because what other choice do they have? ”

    You got it all wrong men,this is/was their primary choice.
    It’s better to have all this domains developed in to small businesses then to have them sit on the shelf by some domainer asking $400k for a name.
    Small businesses was their number one target.

  • Singing Dogs November 2, 2012, 10:19 am

    When I started my dog blog, SingingDogs.net, I didn’t even consider searching for a CO domain. For development purposes I think most would prefer a good NET over a CO. IMO it is always better to go with something the broader public is familiar with.

  • Ezequiel November 3, 2012, 11:04 pm

    That’s the real question. Do end users even know what a .co domain is? Do they even care if it’s anything other than a .com?

  • Jason Capshaw November 6, 2012, 6:27 am

    I am not buying anymore .NETs because I think there is a good chance that they will lose their TLD bonus in the next year or two. .Com and .Org will probably keep their bonus longer, all though .Org could lose its bonus as well IMHO.

    Alot of SEO’s I know feel the same way. The loss of a TLD bonus coupled with Google’s recent EMD update spells disaster for some SEOs.


Leave a Comment