Domain names. They aren’t really important.

Posted on November 27, 2007

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Not found…A long thread has broken out (interesting phrase, “broken out”, implies a viral, “can’t stop it once it’s started” kind of feel…which is strangely apt..) on the Museums Computer Group email list about domain names. Fundamentally it started as a “should we move to .com” question and then as is the way on these kinds of discussions, moved on to pastures new.

I thought I’d just clarify my position on this..

1. It really doesn’t matter what domain TLD (that’s the bit after the name, i.e .co.uk/.com/.org etc) you use. There is one known exception in this: .ac.uk domains are often used to verify that your institution is academic, and so having this TLD can in some circumstances get you in to resources that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to access. The reason the .ac.uk domain has this kudos is because it is very difficult to get one and requires agreement from JANET before you can do so. They also have a pretty strict naming convention – I’ve tried before to buy names from JANET which are non-institution related, for instance ingenious.ac.uk, and they were having none of it.

Pretty much every other TLD (with the exception of the obvious ones like .mil, .gov.uk, etc) can be bought by anyone. They prove nothing about you or your institution and are therefore useless as an indicator of institution status.

2. The legacy position where “.com means it is US based, and probably sells stuff” is so far out of date I can’t even believe anyone is having the conversation. I can buy a .com domain (provided it is available, which many aren’t..) and I’m UK based and nothing whatsoever to do with ecommerce.

3. Your users (and last time I looked they were the important people in this equation..?) really, really won’t care. At all.

4. The actual domain name itself is reasonably important but not hugely important provided your search engine optimisation is good. Most of your users will probably have come to you by going to Google, searching for your institution name and then clicking on the first (or most useful looking) result that they find. Again, they probably won’t even look at the domain name. See 3…

5. Once you’ve decided on your domain name, buy as many important TLD’s as you can. My list is generally: .com, .co.uk, .org, .org.uk – I tend to avoid all the .me.uk and .biz and so on, but given how cheap they are you might as well get the lot if you feel strongly about them.

6. When you’ve done that, though, choose a primary domain – i.e. one that you will promote, use on your signature, put on marketing literature. Do nothing whatsoever with your secondary names (all the ones you bought in step 5!) apart from redirect them to your primary domain.

7. Finally, and this is a matter of minor preference rather than anything else, but make sure your email address has the same suffix as your domain name. So if you decide to use http://www.someotherdomain.com then you should be mike.ellis@someotherdomain.com. This is as I say reasonably unimportant but I (and therefore probably some others) quite often look at an unknown persons’ email address and use the suffix to locate their website.

Whadda you reckon?

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Posted in: domain, museum