Advice Buying Other

Is A Domain The Perfect Gift?

This is the time of year that many give holiday gifts. While gifts can take many forms, from homemade to purchased, unique to generic, objects to experiences, clothing to food, have you considered giving a domain name as a gift?

Why Own Your Name In COM?

Although there are more than a thousand domain extension choices available, one extension clearly dominates: .com.  While some speculate on whether that decades long dominance of .com will continue, it has persisted almost constant for more than two decades. As a consequence many domain experts suggest that whenever possible you should own your own name in .com. 

That being said, in some cases .com may not be a good choice. Even though .com domains can and are registered for any purpose, there is still  an association with .com meaning commercial and business applications. If you are gifting the name to a young person who is strongly into social causes and against corporate globalization, they may not like their personal website being a .com. 

How To Register A Domain Name

To register a domain name you need to go through a registrar. There are literally thousands of domain registrars.  Some of the better known ones are GoDaddy, Namecheap, NameSilo, Epik, Dynadot, Name.com, AlpNames, and Porkbun and West, but there are many others.  Searching for a domain name is as simple as entering it in a search box, and registering the domain name is not much more difficult.

How Much Does It Cost?

The wholesale cost to the registrar at time of writing of a .com domain name was $7.85 + $0.18, so the registrars must charge a bit above that just to break even. Currently most charge a bit under $10. A few promote prices less than the registrar cost, but that is only for the first year and higher costs in later years recoup losses in the first year. Recently price increases for .com have been approved that will add about 30% to the cost by the end of six years.  Nevertheless, the cost to own a .com domain name is very reasonable – roughly $10 per year if you shop around.

The Name Is Not Available!

Unless the name is unusual you may well find that the domain name is already registered in .com. You have three choices in that case.

  1. See If You Can Buy It
    The first possibility is that although someone has it registered they will be willing to sell it within your price range. The first thing to do is to simply enter the domain name in a browser and see if it goes to an active website. Depending on what you find, use the contact information to send a query. Even if the name does not resolve sending an email to [email protected][the domain name].com might reach the owner.
  2. Express The Name Differently
    Most prefer a full writing of the name with FirstSecond.com. However, there are options. You could include a middle initial or name (but that would lessen chances that someone will get the name right), or a hyphen between the  two names, or even going to two initials plus the last name.There are significant downsides to all of these, however. 
  3. Get A Different Extension
    While .com is the best choice in most cases, there are exceptions as noted earlier. We outline some alternative extensions you might want to consider in the next sections.

Alternative Extensions

So you either can’t get a .com domain extension, or prefer another extension. There are literally almost a thousand choices, but here are a few that I might consider.

  • your country code
    This would be my first choice. In many parts of the world the country code is more accepted than .com, and many more names are available for registration fee  in country codes than in .com. 
  • .xyz
    One of the more popular new domain extensions, .xyz has found fairly wide use. It is inexpensive to register and reasonable to renew at many registrars. The parent company of Google use it as do an increasing number of businesses and organizations. The fact that .xyz does not represent a word in any specific language gives it advantages for globe trotting potential users.
  • .pw
    This started as a Pacific island country code, but was repurposed under designation professional web. It is inexpensive to register and reasonable to renew, and widely available. 
  • a new extension related to expertise
    There are about 700 new domain extensions (ngTLDs) and if the person already has a clear direction it makes sense to link their online presence to that. For example, if they are a designer the .design  extension makes perfect sense. If they are a writer there are various choices including the recently released Google sponsored .page. If they are in the aerospace business then .space would be appropriate. The renewal costs on these will be a bit higher, in most cases.
  • .pro
    If you are gifting this to a young person just starting out in a professional career this may be a  good extension. It is reasonable to register and renew, has superb lack of abuse characteristics, is memorable, and has a reasonable user base in certain parts of the world.  It has been around longer than the ngTLDs.
  • .me
    This was the country code for Montenegro, but is now repurposed with the meaning me as in personalized. However do look at the renewal cost when deciding on this domain name. 
  • .online
    One of the more successful ngTLDs is .online with many businesses already using it. It is generic enough that it does make sense also for a personal domain name.  The renewal will set you back about double the cost of a .com, but may be worth it.  Another similar choice is .site, but for personal use I would prefer .online.

This is not a complete list. While I personally would not gift a .net, .info or .org, they are popular domain extensions that are well established. There is an extension .name that is intended for personal use, but it has not got much traction and perhaps narrows potential future use by the recipient (see next section). 

The renewal costs vary widely for some of these extensions (a few are less than .com, and many are more), so do look into long term costs. 

What Use Is A Domain Name?

We all know that feeling when you get a gift that you see no use for.  What is the use of having a domain name anyway.  

  • Career Promotion
    If you are giving the name to a young person, there will be substantial advantage in them having a site in their own name when they are applying for positions or getting started as a consultant. It might simply host their curriculum vitae, or may be a whole site about their qualifications, interests and experiences.
  • Email
    While the person may well continue to use a gmail or other email platform, having an email that is linked to your own name can be useful and make queries seem more professional.
  • Side Gig
    The website may be useful to run a small side business. For example, if they are into photography they might sell prints from the site. Someone into crafts or arts can showcase their work and offer purchase alternatives. 
  • Redirection
    It is trivial to set up redirection so the domain name takes users to any site of the web. For example, they might redirect it to their LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook profile.
  • Protection
    We have seen famous cases of when a well known person does not control their name in  .com, and detractors use the site for negative purposes.

This is a long topic and we will expand this section in a future post on NameTalent.

Lifetime Ownership

I strongly recommend that you gift the domain name with a number of renewals prepaid. Most extensions allow you to register up to 10 years in advance.  If you shop carefully, some of the alternative extensions occasionally offer better value in multi-year  registrations, and with .com you lock in future years at known current prices.  Also, it means that the person will not forget to renew the domain name and lose it.

A recent development from registrar Epik now offers lifetime domain registrations in a number of extensions. While the cost is high enough that investing the principal would probably pay renewal costs, lifetime payment protects you from future price increases and makes it certain that you will not forget to renew and lose a domain name.

Discussion

You may want to gift a domain name but not in the name of the person. If they are late in post secondary education and know what they want to do, you might help out by providing funding for a domain name and renewal costs. In this case it is better to gift them the funds, as making an optimum name change requires consideration of many factors.

Do consider all the options and aspects, but a domain name can be a wonderful gift that the recipient will treasure for many years. At the very least, it is cool to own your own domain name! 

About the author

Bob Hawkes

Domain analyst and commentator with particular interests in quantitative analysis, new uses for domain names, nontraditional end users, and bridging the gap between the domain community and end users. Background in science, research, education, outreach and communications, as well as almost two decades running a small home-based business. My first domain name acquisition was 2001. I hold a modest domain portfolio with legacy, country code and new extensions. Based in western Canada, but my domain outlook is global! My goal is to provide fresh insights and an evidence-based balanced outlook on the domain industry.

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