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About About and Internet Marketing
PERSPECTIVES by Cory Kleinschmidt - June 25, 2000

Last week I received an e-mail newsletter from About.com in which the vertical portal of human guides proudly announced it was dropping the dot com from its name, and that henceforth it will simply be known as ... About.

Hmm, I think I see some confusing headlines in the making, and that's why I wrote one just now. I want to go down in history as the first tech journalist to make a pun on this company's new name. Did I make it? E-mail me if you've seen any others.

Anyway, this renaming trend is becoming a bunch of monkey business. It seems that a few self-proclaimed geniuses have decided that -- in the wake of the stock market downturn of April -- it is akin to death to have dot com in your company name. While it is true that dot-com stocks have been singled out mercilessly by fair-weathered day tradin' investor-fools, I have to question the anti-dot-com trend.

Especially when it means changing your name to just About.

What were these guys thinking? Having the dot com in its name was the only thing that made sense for them. Dropping it means that they're customers and investors will be confused when reading or talking about the company name. Think about it: "Did you hear about About? They're about to change their name." Huh?

Here's another case of mistaken dot identity. Accompany, the group buying service, recently changed its name to Mob Shop. I'd have to say that without a doubt, Accompany is the better name. Apparently they switched because in conversation it was difficult to talk about the company without causing confusion. Some people think you mean "a company" when speaking the name rather than "accompany," which means "to go along with."

Simply adding the dot com to Accompany would have made a world of difference. But they've already become Mob Shop, and if you ask me, that's a worse name than Accompany.

The anti-dot-com trend also stems from the belief that it in 5 years, the dot-com suffix may seem quaint and old-fashioned. Maybe, but maybe not. Having the suffix is still the best way to convey what direction your company is moving. For some Internet-only companies like Accompany, it's a perfect branding complement to have the dot com. For old economy stalwarts like Wal-Mart, it's obviously senseless to change the company name to Wal-Mart.com, because they're not an Internet-only business.

Who knows? In five years, we may still attach the dot com to company names. There are many benefits, after all.

1. Announces the company URL. In this day and age when good domain names are hard to find, many companies are being forced to use dot net or some other weird combination for their URLs. If your company name is Widgets, but your URL is widgets.net, your potential customers may guess that your domain name is Widgets.com, but if another company has that name, you're out of luck. If you had to settle for Widgets.net, you've lost an opportunity to advertise your Web site by not saying "We're Widgets.net."

2. Avoids confusion. Witness the Accompany example above.

3. Provides important branding clues. Again, as I mentioned above, being a dot com implies many things about your company. Stock-minded people may think this is a bad connotation, but with the world becoming more Internet-centric, I see the dot-com suffix as an indicator of a company's sensibilities. As one who is forever committed to the Internet lifestyle, I appreciate Internet companies and support them whenever I can.

So, until every company is e-nabled, I think we will continue to see this trend expand, until that day when domain names are replaced with a better naming system, such as RealNames' Internet keywords, which I will write about one day soon!

But don't get me started on ICAAN's plan to expand the top-level domains. If you thought domain names were confusing so far, wait until that happens! Ugh.

 

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