What is .io?
Domains that use .io have been popping up for a while. The most familiar case that the general public probably knows is Slither.io, but there are more important applications for these .io domains.
What is .io? Well, .com is the staple TLD we all know, it’s stand for “commercial”. It was one of the first TLD’s out the gate since the inception of the internet and it just happened to catch and stick. The .io TLD is actually a country code, it is assigned to the British Indian Ocean Territory.
So why, of all country code TLD’s (ccTLD), has .io been so popular? Because in the tech world IO stands for input/output. These .io domains are valuable in tech, I’ve been involved in several five figure .io sales and even a six figure .io sale.
Should you use .com or .io?
So should you use a .com or a .io? The answer to this in your target audience. Who is your customer? Is your customer in technology? If so you can most likely use a .io domain in faith, knowing that you are speaking to like-minded people. A .io domain can do something that a .com can’t, a .io domain speaks for itself by saying “we are in tech” before someone even visits your site.
Now if your product or service is a technology but your audience is not in technology or tech savvy, then .com is your better bet. In other words, your service/product might be a technology, like a SAAS, but your consumer is not fluent in technology. The general population is not completely familiar with other TLD’s yet, so anything .com is more familiar, and likely more trustworthy. So if your target audience/customer is a broad demographic then .com should be your top choice.
One drawback of .io is that the Whois behind it is limited, so it makes finding the owner or doing some research to see who is behind a website very limited, which makes it easier for those in shady business practice to survive.
Another disadvantage, which is a perception, is that having a .io conveys the idea that you could not afford or obtain the .com. Paul Graham put it politely… “The problem with not having the .com of your name is that it signals weakness. Unless you’re so big that your reputation precedes you, a marginal domain suggests you’re a marginal company.” – Paul Graham
So can you get away with a .io if you can’t get a .com? Sure. Nowadays search engine success is based on branding and traffic, not on just what kind of domain or TLD you have. If you can take a .io, even if you’re not in tech, and rock your brand by marketing with your TLD, you can still crush it. Obviously you will have to go the extra mile to let your audience/customer know you operate under a .io, i.e. including your full domain name in all marketing campaigns. Of course you will always run the risk of traffic going to the .com version.
One last thought, if you cannot get the domain you want and you have to choose between getting a long .com or a short .io, I would personally go for the .io. I don’t think a .com is worth it if the domain is too long to remember, misspell, or market.
If you are a startup consider this!
Don’t rely on the fact that if you obtain your brand in .io that it will be feasible or financially realistic to buy the .com version later. Once success comes then the .com will be harder to obtain because who else is going to want it? A a domain seller knows this. Be ready to pivot and re-brand if necessary, or fork out the cash.
In summary, if your target audience/customer is in technology then .io is a viable option. If you market to a broad target audience/customer then .com is top choice, but .io is good if you cannot get a short .com. Think ahead if you think that you’ll need a .com down the road.