Do You Actually Need a Columbian Web Address?

At this years Super Bowl broadcast, GoDaddy once again had the most salacious thirty seconds that they could get past NBC’s content standards.  In this case it involved a scantily clad model and body paint cooing suggestively while their celebrity spokeswomen gushed about the hot new .co domain registrations from GoDaddy.  So what’s really going on here?

All two-character top-level-domains are country specific.  They were instituted as a response to complaints the the internet was still overly dominated by the United States.  So China can control the .cn domain and who can register what names within it.  There are no two-letter domain names other than the country-specific ones.  Two letter combinations not belonging to existing countries are reserved for potential future countries.

The .co domain was originally designated in late 1991 to Columbia and assigned to The Universidad de los Andes.  There it languished until late 2001 when the government decided that it was a public asset intrinsic to the Ministry of Communications.  Eventually bids were taken for a subcontractor to actually run the domain, which was won by .CO Internet SAS, a joint venture of Arcelandia S.A. and Neustar, Inc.  Two rounds of “Sunrise” registrations were allowed for local trademark holders plus a “Landrush” phase where potentially lucrative domains were auctioned.  Then on July 20, 2010 .co domains could be purchased by anyone anywhere.  In about eleven months one million .co domains in total were registered.  GoDaddy is one of several entities acting as sales agents for .co registrations.

But if you visit GoDaddy’s web site you will find no mention about .co meaning Collumbia of course!  It means COmpany! Or it means COrporation! Or it means COmmerce! Or failing any of those I guess from the Super Bowl ad it means COmpletely naked!

This is not a new effort by GoDaddy.  Since 2010 they have made the .co domain be the first thing that they suggest in a search (since the chances are so high that the .com was already taken anyway).  However the investment in a Super Bowl ad marks a new and expensive degree of effort.

The real point of the advertising to the entire Superbowl audience of course is to suggest that if you are either lazy, hip, or like sexy women you can just leave the m off the end when entering a web address.  And the real point behind that was to convince the owners of the over 80 million .com domains that haven’t already registered their .co that they needed to be sure that when those lazy, hip, or lustfull internet users left off the m they will not be sent to a competitior or cyber-squatter.  I couldn’t imagine a new enterprise not being equally worried that customers will, out of habit, often add the m at the end to make .com.  So rather than opening up a whole range of new addresses it mostly represents one more place where a owner of a web presence needs to feel that they have to cover to avoid feeling even more exposed than the body-painted model.

And then what?  There are 54 two-letter country-code Top Level Domains that have been made available for commercial registration by anyone.  Which will be featured in a Superbowl ad in a couple of years?  Then of course there is the current wide-open application period for new three or more letter top level domains.  It is hard to be a trademark holder and not feel pretty abused by the whole process, pretty girls notwithstanding.

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