Domain Name Trends over the Years

The first .com domain name was registered in 1985, and by the end of that year there was a total of about six domains registered by different people and companies. Things have certainly changed a lot since then, and there are hundreds of millions of domains currently registered around the world.

Over the last 30 or so years, a lot of naming trends have come and gone. Some companies who have jumped in on these trends have found themselves a year later with a name that seems completely outdated and unfashionable.

Timeline of the past, present and future

So let’s take a look at some of the things we’ve seen over the years and try to determine whether or not they will have on any future trends in 2016 and beyond.

The Good Kind of Four-Letter Words

We’ve said it many times, but length is an important component of a premium domain name. Often, the shorter the better because it’s easier to remember and easier to type into a web browser. This is why many companies would register and use an acronym of their name and focus on it rather than their full company name.

However, according to this study on WhoAPI, as of 2013 every single possible combination of four letters and .com have been registered. There are 456,976 possible combinations between aaaa.com and zzzz.com, and now they’re all registered. That doesn’t mean you can’t get them, of course. (We have quite a few of them for sale.)

Three-letter .coms were all registered way back in 1997, so if you’re looking to register a brand new, short domain you’re looking at five letters and up.

Getting Creative with Country Code Top Level Domains

This is a trend that started with websites like Bit.ly and About.me, and, for that matter, del.icio.us. It was cute and creative and it stood out from the tens of millions of “plain old” .com domain names that everyone else was using.

There was a lot of variety here. .ly, .be, .us, .it, .me, and many more options are available, and many companies tried to fold that country code into their branding. The more complicated names like del.iciou.us, however, was a trend that wouldn’t last. Even know, if you were to type that into your browser it would just redirect you to delicious.com.

The trend hasn’t gone away, though, and it remains an option for some company for reasons we’ll discuss a little later.

Dropping Vowels

More than 100,000 domains are bought and sold every day, so people feel like they need to get creative with their domain name and brand. It can be hard to build a brand on a generic name, so many companies do things like drop the vowels to create something more unique.

This means that there’s a good chance the made-up domain will be available to register, and it may even look cool on printed material and in your logo, but chances are it will be too hard to remember and too likely misspelled to really justify going this route.

I and My

The success of certain companies and their branding efforts is often bring a lot of others behind in their wake. Sometimes the original company and the naming trend that followed don’t last long. Other times, even if the product stays, the branding trend won’t.

MySpace, for example, had everyone using MyThis and MyThat to name their products or services. Apple’s iProducts had people scooping iEverything domain names, just in case they hit on the next thing the giant company might want. Neither of which is much of a trend these days.

What Do the Studies Say?

In a recent study, we get to see how some domain trends differed between more established companies and those that are just getting started.

This study took a look at 350 companies on the INC 500 list that were established before 2012 as well as another 350 who were funded after 2012. It looked at everything from the domain name itself to the domain extension and name type and several other characteristics.

What they found was that 54% of the names for established companies fell into the “Descriptive” category, which is to say that they were purely descriptive of what a company or product does or how it functions.

However, of the newer companies, 41% fell into the “Invented” category, which is to say they are completely made up words, or mashed-up words, or foreign words not normally used by English speakers.

There are several potential reasons for this. Copyrights and trademarks can highly limit the potential usage and force the creative naming by necessity. At the same time, it could just be the desire of younger companies to look even more unique.

2016 and Beyond

While the definition of a premium domain remains steady, a lot of the above trends are going to impact the way companies establish their brand online. Establishing a unique identity will certainly take a little more creativity as we go forward, but history has shown that getting too obscure or following too many trends might not be the best way to go.

Choosing a domain name isn’t something you should take lightly. Explore your options and determine whether a descriptive name, an acronym, or something completely made-up will lead to the most success.

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