Domain Names in…Alexa’s World?
From entrepreneurs who are bullish on domain names such as Michael Saylor to entrepreneurs who aren’t necessarily bullish like Gary Vaynerchuk, it’s difficult to find someone who doesn’t believe the voice dimension of our digital experience will become more and more important. It would therefore not be the worst idea in the world to explore domain names in… well, Alexa’s world or to put it differently, in a world where voice-oriented navigation becomes more and more popular.
More specifically, even if only in the spirit of venturing outside our intellectual comfort zones, it makes sense to let’s say look at domain names beyond the keyboard paradigm and understand that a partial transition toward voice will come with its own set of opportunities as well as pitfalls. And as a business owner who is choosing a domain or an investor who wants to make decisions that are in line with today’s trends, you literally cannot afford to play the proverbial voice game in a sub-optimal manner.
Memorable vs. Edgy
Perhaps the best place to start with respect to explaining the “memorable vs. edgy” battle in terms of domain names is represented by the social media landscape. Some readers might remember the social voting website Digg, where people submitted articles so that other users could vote for the content they “dig(g)” and from a domain investing perspective, digg.com as a domain choice was on the safer side of edgy in terms of memorability. Ironically, when typing in the previous sentence, digg.com got auto-corrected to dig.com… what more could we ask for in terms of a metaphor? Still, even if risky from a radio test and pronunciation perspective, digg.com was a solid choice back then.
But would the same domain represent as stellar of a choice in an Alexa/voice-dominated world?
Let’s just say that after factoring in the voice navigation trends that currently exist, even “the best of the best” in terms of edgy domains lose a few very important points. After all, it was annoying for me when writing this article to have digg.com auto-corrected to dig.com every single time, I can only imagine that for someone who is experimenting with voice navigation, the entire experience is even more frustrating.
However, wait… it gets worse.
Some of you might also remember the first social bookmarking website out there, called del.icio.us. Yes, the word “delicious” on the .us “icio” domain, preceded by the subdomain “del” is actually what they decided to call their project. The project itself ended up being successful despite the horrendous domain choice but in the end, they were pretty much forced to switch to the domain most readers probably suspect ended up being used, delicious.com.
In a world where voice navigation becomes more and more popular, even Digg’s approach loses a fair bit of its luster, let’s not even talk about the real head-scratchers such as Delicious. As such, from a strictly domaining perspective, we have valid reasons to raise an eyebrow when coming across a startup that is excited about an edgy domain that completely fails in the memorability department more so in 2020 and beyond than in the Digg/Delicious days.
But Alexa’s World… Really?
The title was a bit of a stretch and it is worth pointing out that there is no credible study that asserts in any way, shape or form that voice navigation will end up dominating the landscape. As convenient and futuristic as it may seem, it’s just not feasible in a wide range of instances: when navigating at work, when traveling via public transportation and the list could go on.
However, it’s equally true that it is difficult to come across credible research that states voice navigation is nothing more than a fad and will simply disappear. That is most definitely not the case, with this method of interacting with the internet being here to stay and carve out a more and more robust niche for itself.
What Does This Mean for Domain Investors?
Not every article should aim to completely alter the strategies of those who invest in domain names and this one certainly doesn’t intend to do something as spectacular. Yes, voice is here to stay but this doesn’t mean it will render existing domaining business models obsolete but rather than investors will have to simply tweak their current approach here and there.
In fact, the best of the best in terms of investment-grade domains are by definition voice-friendly. Domaining 101, at the end of the day or if you will, going back to the very basics of what constitutes a good domain: a term that is easy to remember, easy to pronounce and generates little to preferably no confusion. If anything, navigation trends which have to do with the voice dimension will mark a more pronounced return to the basics in terms of domain choices, with more and more investors becoming less willing to take ultra-aggressive risks on problematically “edgy” domains.
What About Silicon Valley?
At this point, we are in the realm of extreme speculation and it is certainly possible for there to be a persistent disconnect between domain investors and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs who oftentimes have proven to manifest a clear appetite for edgy domains. But as domain investing legends such as Rick Schwartz made clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that and domain investors have absolutely no reason to be anxious…on the contrary.
For every del.icio.us head-scratcher in terms of domain choices, there will be an investor in delicious.com who will be more than happy to monetize the inevitable type-in traffic that is likely to come as a gift and patiently wait for the VC crowd to understand that they have made a strategic mistake.
Domain Trends in Alexa’s World?
For an extended period of time, there has been a bit of a return of tradition in the world of domain investing, with for example solid one-word dot comes re-gaining the spotlight after a wide range of fad strategies have proven to be not necessarily complete flops but rather sub-optimal: from exact match domain names that ended up representing a volatile choice that makes investors dependent on the actions of Google to future trend domain names which have been awful investments for everyone other than those who managed to secure the absolute cream of the crop, disappointment after disappointment led to the consolidation of blockbuster one-word dot coms as the premier choice.
What does this mean for the average investor?
Most likely that the barrier of entry is poised to get higher, with business models such as hand registering expired exact match domain names and flipping them to developers becoming less and less viable. As such, beginners will be left with a few difficult choices:
Should they keep trying their luck with business models which are generating diminishing returns?
Should they join forces with other beginners so as to pool capital and secure domain names that are actually investment grade?
Should they look for perhaps trends such as the tokenization of domain names, which allows individual investors to own a fraction of an extremely good domain name or portfolio?
… the list could go on and on.
The Law of Gravity
At the end of the day, the world of voice navigation represents yet another data point which proves (as if it were even necessary anymore) that the best of the best in terms of domains since the very first days of domain investing have the law of gravity working in their favor. No matter how many fads pop up along the way, it is difficult to believe the core rules of desirability outlined by the very first domain investing trail blazers will be invalidated.
There will always be investors who choose to stubbornly fight what is arguably the elephant in the room in terms of mega-trends and there will always be fad peddlers who happily sell them whichever dream they seem keen on buying…some things never change. But despite this relatively depressing realization, the conclusion of this article should be fairly straightforward: there is no hiding from the effect of voice navigation on domain valuation but fortunately, this effect will hardly be a game-changer. On the contrary, it will most likely mark a proverbial return to tradition if anything: choosing memorable domain names that have passed the test of time and are likely to continue doing so, deploying patience and avoiding pitfalls associated with chasing the latest fad (unless of course you have some kind of an edge in that game, which let’s face it… the average investor simply does not).