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Branding Backfire? – .CO URL shorteners

2011 October 15
by Nat

.CO has carved out a niche for itself as the preferred extension for URL shorteners.  Google (, Twitter (, GoDaddy (, are now using .co domains as URL shorteners.

Using .co as a URL shorteners has taken one of .co’s defects – that it doesn’t have a separate identity from .com – and turned it into an advantage.   By being a ‘nickname’ for .Com, the .Co extension works as a natural URL shortener for longer .Com domains. is the 22nd most visited site in the US according to Alexa. isn’t a website, however.  It isn’t a destination.  It is a redirect to a real website, one that probably has a .Com extension.

Because of .co domains’ adoption as URL shorteners, likely 99.99% of the public’s interaction with .Co domains is as a URL shortener.

.Co risks being permanently branded as a redirect, rather than a destination.  Someone seeing a .Co domain will think it is a redirect, not a brand in itself.

This will be reinforced as longer domains are being used as redirects. such as the Denver Broncos using as a redirect to

The trend is picking up with JDM Digital selecting as a redirect, the launch of the URL shortening service,  Virgin with, Politico with, and Venture Hacks with

The .CO registry is promoting the use of .co domains as branded shorteners on its site.  I agree that this seems like a good use of the .Co extension, as the brand is retained in a shorter domain.  The .Co registry could carve out a nice, profitable niche for itself if .co domains are widely adopted as shorteners.

The risk is that the use of .Co as URL shorteners will drown out the other possible uses promoted by the .Co registry at, such as using .Co for a company’s web site.   There are five companies highlighted on “company”  page.  Only one is an established company, the venture capital firm Draper, Fisher, Jurvetson.   The promo text is:

DFJ knows what it takes to build a successful company. One of the most important things of all? A solid domain name, like DFJ.CO

Type in DFJ.CO, however, and you are redirected to the corporate web site at DFJ.COM.

Will that increasingly by the fate of .Co domains – to not be sites under their own name but merely redirects to .Com sites?


14 Responses leave one →
  1. October 15, 2011

    Apart from those you mentioned, there are big names using their .COs as fully developed websites or mirrors, like Armani.CO, Laney.CO or RollsRoyce.CO (as a side note, and aren’t even resolving for me), not to mention and its ongoing migration to the domain. Even artists are using .COs: if you search for Charlotte Church on Google, CharlotteChurch.CO, the singer’s official website, is second on page 1, while the .com and are nowhere to be found (I’m not sure whether she owns them at all).

    That said, .com is and will always be the undisputed king, no doubt about that.

    • October 15, 2011

      Sorry, Armani.CO was a mistake. Anyway there are other popular brands using .CO, like VerizonBusiness.CO, cPanel.CO and others.

      • Nat permalink*
        October 17, 2011

        cPanel seems to be aliasing the .co, .com, and .net to the same site, with the .net being the primary site. is redirecting to the .com site.

        • October 17, 2011

 has hundreds of pages indexed by Google and if you access them from Google, the website will stay on .co as an exact mirror of the .com. Anyway, .co is used in many ways, url shortening is only one.

  2. October 15, 2011

    On the plus side my blog is now shows a ton of referrals from so the impact of twitter is pretty dramatic whereas it had been hidden before. On the minus Side it automatically converts the fragerfactor ink on my tweets which leaves no branding for me

  3. adam permalink
    October 15, 2011

    if you take look at .co sales you will see that over 90% of domains which were sold for the biggest money were not but .co keywords.

    • Nat permalink*
      October 17, 2011

      Yes, it seems that aside from the single letter domains most of the big money purchases in .co were for keyword domains. What will become of these investments if .CO becomes associated in the public’s mind as a URL shortener? .CO has enough challenges trying to step out from .COM’s shadow, but if the extension is viewed as primarily a redirect, it will make the challenge of building a brand on a .CO site even harder.

  4. Joe Ray permalink
    October 16, 2011

    Not a big fan of .co but it does make sense with all the smart phones to have a shorter URL. maybe .cc will catch on.

    • Nat permalink*
      October 17, 2011

      .cc and .to also work well as shorteners. For a shortener it doesn’t matter that much what the extension is. I don’t see people paying a lot more to obtain a .co domain for use primarily as a shortener if the equivalent .cc or .to domain is available for much less. So even if .co catches on as the primary extension for shorteners, it doesn’t mean that this will lead to an increase in their value.

  5. .ME Of Course! permalink
    October 16, 2011

    Forget 1-on-1 URL shorteners. Use bundles of and

  6. October 17, 2011

    I really don’t see the .CO TTL becoming a branding backfire. It’s far less expensive than more exotic ones out there. It’s close enough to .COM for late-adopters to be comfortable with it. It’s popularized by large organizations using it as their preferred domain name extension, like “”

    The trend, instead, will be away from long, but keyword-rich preferred domain names to short, easy to remember, easy to link via social media, domain names with, perhaps, exotic extensions.

    As far as our own, branded URL shortener (, referenced above), that’s just a way of branding our own shortened URL, but we’re not advocating that TTL specifically. In fact, we recommend just finding a crazy-short and cool one. If .CO is available and cheap, why not?

  7. October 17, 2011

    I used to call my site, till I registered and now that is my new brand.

  8. October 20, 2011

    I got excited when .CO became available at $29.97; and now, if we’re lucky, we get it for under $25. I thought the bean counters at extensions ‘R Us were a little $-heavy when they figured the price at approx. $29.97. When I would catch it under $20, I would buy a good KEYWORD domain.

    Since reading the hype, and now this write-up about .co being a URL shortener rather than a website in it’s own – I feel disheartened. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that my .co’s will not be used as URL shorteners… I hope to get first page exposure on SERPs.

    CoolBeans Domains

    Of course, when I thought I successfully registered they said it was then not available… Doh’s!

  9. Michael permalink
    September 29, 2012

    To people who are not aware that .co is a legit extension, they might think the url is a typo and type in .com instead. That’s what I thought until I researched it further.

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