Last week I had a conversation with a friend and a colleague who really could not understand the reason we run Vesica on the .ws TLD. As a global museum based business, he was adamant that we can and only should use .COM. This has, of course, come up in the past – but no one has expressed such strong feelings. In fact, publications that have written about Vesica have actually attempted to explain why we use .ws, but I figured it’s time for an official version.
Let’s start with a bit of information of TLDs, which is the last part of the domain name as we know it. So, this could be .com, .co.uk, .fr, .uk.com, .net, etc. etc. TLD stands for Top Level Domain. TLDs come in different types, but the common types are:
gTLD – this is a generic TLD and does not tie you down to a specific country or a sponsor. Common ones you are most familiar with are .com, .net and .org.
ccTLD – this is a country specific TLD and also comes in an internationalized variety (this distinction is not necessary here). Examples of such domains include .co.uk, .fr, .es, .br, .us and so on so forth.
sTLD – These are sponsored TLDs. An example of this is .museum. Try http://icom.musuem, for instance.
So what really is the difference? A TLD helps identify the domain name. So you know that a .co.uk means the website belongs to the UK. You know a .museum means the website is a museum or is something related to one.
From a practical standpoint, this can have marketing and SEO level ramifications (and any other level if you are used to blowing things out of proportion). You can argue that from a marketing standpoint, the TLD can be very important. .COM or .NET almost always imply a larger, more dominating internet presence – it’s just how most people have been programmed to react to TLDs. If you are in marketing, this is a big issue. My personal view – it’s really quite important – but its importance depends on what the website in question really does. Most marketing people actually forget to address that more important issue.
Technically, the wrong extension can make or break your efforts. To market any application, it is probably good to have ccTLDs to market in a specific market. This is because Google will always consider a .co.uk extension as a more relevant result on google.co.uk than it will a .com or .fr extension. So it’s not just about the marketing anymore, but the wrong extension might mean the difference between you getting found or not via search engines online.
But what if you run a website or application online that is really not country specific – like Vesica. Sure, we might want to market to different countries and for that we could setup either subdomains like fr.vesica.ws or get domains like vesica.fr, but at the end of the day, the primary language is English and the application itself is always delivered on the vesica.ws domain.
The key to not getting lost on the internet is to get a generic TLD. gTLDs are considered somewhat internationalized, meaning that unless you specifically tell Google to prioritize their searches to one specific country, they are considered equal for all (unless your content really focuses on a geographic location). This is by no means a detailed and comprehensive answer (and there is a lot to this discussion that I am happy to go into should it tickle someone’s fancy) – but it is this particular issue that restricts you to the following TLDS:
- .COM – this is undoubtedly the globally recognized and popular TLD
- .NET – The second best, whatever it technically means (that’s irrelevant)
- There are a few more that qualify, and .WS is one of these
Now for answering the real question – why did we choose .WS? Because it is considered a gTLD and was available.
How is .WS a generic name when it is supposed to be a ccTLD for Western Samoa? Well, because an American company bought the rights to rebrand it as .WebSite and for all technical purposes, google considers .WS to be a gTLD. Unlike other gTLDs like .mobi or .tel .asia, .WS (WebSite) does not limit us to a specific medium (like a mobile device or phone) or a specific location (like Europe or Asia).
It simply means WebSite. Whilst it’s not as catchy as .com or .net, it technically can and does serve the same purpose. It’s clear from the Vesica website that we are a website and company based in London – and it’s really quite short and easy to remember.
Are there any other technical issues that can occur if you use such domains? Perhaps – especially if the infrastructure that resolves NS records for your TLD is sitting in a small island nation that doesn’t have the technical knowledge or infrastructure to support global traffic. Luckily, .WS nameservers resolve from all over the world, including the United States and the UK – see http://www.iana.org/domains/root/db/ws.html. This is primarily due to the rebranding initiative of Global Domains International. In a worst case scenario where such a spread of infrastructure is not available for your TLD, switching domain names if one does go down isn’t all that difficult as long as you own a few – and a company like Vesica that serves its customers primarily via the internet always has a plan in place to deploy such a backup within hours, if not minutes.