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The top 5 TLD flops, ever

With the Internet growing rapidly over the years, the number of generic top-level domains (gTLDs) has increased from just a handful to about twenty, with many more proposed or in planning. Some, such as .com and .edu, have seen widespread adoption and are a useful contribution to the Internet. Others haven’t been quite as lucky. You could say they have flopped.

From domain extensions that never made it past the planning table, to those that make little sense at all, there are probably more flops than successes. Here are five of the worst TLD flops in Internet history (in no specific order).

1. .xxx

The .xxx TLD was first proposed by ICANN as a catch-all extension for adult content. Proponents argue that the name would provide a virtual red light district, keeping the likes of 2 Girls 1 Cup and Girls Gone Wild isolated to one place. This, they claim, would make those raunchy Paris Hilton videos easier for schools, parents, and workplaces to block.

ICANN came close to approving the domain in 2005, but, in light of pressure from conservative groups and other organizations, decided not to allow the extension. There was worry within the agency that creating the extension would establish ICANN as an Internet content regulator, a role it wasn’t willing to assume. Two more attempts to establish .xxx were made in 2006 and 2007 by a third party, but were also shot down.

2. .museum

We all enjoy a trip to the museum now and then, but these educational venues are simply not popular enough to warrant their own domain extension. With museum websites spread out across dozens of TLDs including .com, .org, and country-code extensions like .uk, the introduction of.museum in 2001 made affairs even more confusing.

To make things worse, it is also one of the longest TLDs ever created and probably one of the most commonly misspelled. Domain extensions were created to make navigating the web easier, not harder.

A lengthy application process and austere usage restrictions have further limited adoption. Only a legitimate museum can register the name for a yearly fee of $100. An online index of .museum names reveals that less than 600 are registered. Many of these do not contain a website, but rather redirect to a URL on a more widely known extension.

3. .info

Introduced in 2001 as an alternative to .com, .info is a failure for a number of reasons. Though it is one of the most popular TLDs with 5.2 million registrations, its small renewal fee has made it a haven for the worst of the worst – spam, phishing, and malware. According to a 2007 report issued by McAfee, 7.5% of the sites on the .info TLD contain dangerous or unwanted content.

Because of its bad reputation, the name has received almost no recognition from the Internet community. No website on a .info domain is taken seriously by anyone. And considering the goal of most sites is to provide information to begin with, isn’t “.info” a bit redundant?

4. .web

One of the oldest TLDs, .web is a failure because despite nearly 15 years of attempts, the domain has never been accepted into the official root DNS and is thus unreachable.

It was created by in 1995 by Jon Postel, one of the architects of the early Web, as an alternative to .com. Since then, multiple attempts have been made to have it added to the root DNS, all of which have failed.

Many would agree that the moniker “.web” is redundant and serves no purpose. Regardless of this, the .web registry could finally have its day in 2010, when ICANN will introduce a much more lenient process for approving new TLDs.

5. .aero

Launched in 2002, .aero was created for companies and individuals in the aviation industry. It never quite took off, however, ending up somewhere between the hangar and the runway for a number of reasons.

Perhaps the names biggest failure is appearing too late. By the time it was introduced in 2002, nearly all airlines had an established web presence. No air travel firm in their right mind then or now would give up a well-known .com or other domain to be an early adopter of .aero. Had it appeared when the Web was just getting started, the TLD might have seen greater adoption.

Finally, a spelling issue has hampered North American adoption of the TLD. In Europe people fly on an “aeroplane,” but in the United States and Canada, “airplane” is the preferred spelling. In these countries, “aero” risks being misspelled as “airo.” Given that the American airline industry is the largest in the world and carries 41% of the world’s scheduled passengers, “.air” would have been a better (and shorter) alternative for the extension. Simply put, .aero arrived too late at the wrong gate for the wrong flight.

Agree, disagree? Let us know in the comments!

About the author:
Daniel Foster is a technology blogger and photography enthusiast. In addition to developing websites, he operates his own computer blog, PC Fastlane.



29 comments
Muzika
Muzika

Not sure I would agree that an extension that did not start could be a failure. XXX is not a failure because of the idea, some just don’t want it from a political standpoint.

Joe M
Joe M

I think people are getting confused as to the point of the original comment about .info sites being banned on Google and elsewhere. The point was not that .info sites are banned as a result of their using .info as a TLD. The point was that many spam/malware perpetrators know that their domains will be banned within months (no matter what domain they choose), as a result of their sites containing spam or malware. Therefore, the best strategy for them is to simply register the cheapest domain they can get, and since .info regularly has very cheap registration costs, they pick that TLD (renewal costs don't matter, since it would be pointless to renew the domain after it's been banned anyway), which fills the .info domain with a lot of garbage, making the ratio of garbage to honest websites higher than usual in the .info domain. I am not surprised to hear, and wouldn't be surprised if it were true that 7.5% of all .info sites contain unwanted content.

Internet Marketing Expert
Internet Marketing Expert

I wonder how many internet users really look at the extension of the domain when using search engines. If someone searches for a certain keyword, and the title and description of a website in the SERPs are exactly what he/she is looking for, then I do not think it matter much what the extension of the domain is... Furthermore I have several .info sites ranking high in Google, Yahoo and Bing.

Chris Clemson
Chris Clemson

@Brandon Checketts: .ws has got nothing to do with "website", it's the Country Code for Western Samoa! Personally I'd add ".biz" - most of those sites I have come across have been as dodgy as the .info ones mentioned.

MIchael Sharp
MIchael Sharp

This is a great read linked from WHT. Here's a success story for us: Paid $70 for a .fm ccTLD (Federation of Micronesia), some tiny little dot in the Pacific Ocean. We asked hundreds of people what .fm website made them think of and they almost all said, RADIO. They are still very expensive though. But for us it worked.

Everything.tv
Everything.tv

Not sure I would agree that an extension that did not start could be a failure. XXX is not a failure because of the idea, some just don't want it from a political standpoint. .Tv is a cctld certainly has not been a failure, it is a niche extension that if the niche is right, there is interest in the name. You cannot reg anything.tv as it does not work. Where is .jobs on the list ?

gfy
gfy

Greg Matthews documented nothing other than saying he sold them for a 300 % return. There were no reported sales or screenshots of bank accounts or paypal accounts. Next.

andrew boucher
andrew boucher

I think the .XXX would be good because all parents would have to do is block that extension instead of having to find each site or category they didn't want their kids to see.

Olivier
Olivier

@Garin Kilpatrick : how can you say that a ccTLD is a failure? that doesn't mean anything, so .tt isn't a failure at all.

Heather Read
Heather Read

Of all of the new TLDs chosen by ICANN from the 2000 round, .INFO has surpassed them all with the most registrations, the most live sites and the most adoption. .INFO has nearly 5.5 million domains and millions of live sites. A sampling of these sites are available in our directory at http://www.info.info/directory. In fact, you will see that most of these site owners preferred to select a .INFO because it clearly conveys the purpose of their site and provides a more intuitive address. In terms of distribution, .INFO is not relegated only to popularity in European countries. .INFO is popular around the world. In fact over 50% of .INFO's registrations are in North America, and 33% in Europe. http://www.info.info/news/2009/04/30/europe-and-north-america-lead-info-registrations .INFO has also been a pioneer in addressing abusive behavior. .INFO was the first registry to adopt an official Domain Anti-Abuse policy. http://www.info.info/news/2008/10/07/afilias-announces-new-policy-make-info-even-safer-internet-users Earlier this year, the Anti-Phishing Working Group's second half 2008 report showed that among gTLDs, .INFO had the lowest phishing rates and the lowest average attack duration among the gTLDs measured. .INFO's phishing durations were half the world average. http://www.info.info/news/2009/05/13/new-report-shows-info-domain-safest-phishing-attacks

Greg Matthews
Greg Matthews

It has been well documented that I sold over 300 of those .TV domains for a nice profit Captain Anonymous. If you consider a 300% ROI a failure, you must be the REAL failure. Lol

gfy
gfy

tv has only been a failure for people like Greg Matthews someone who regged 400 names when Godaddy offered them for $9.99. Many who know what they are doing have made money in .tv for many years. To your other ridiculous point, yes it does matter for the extension to be live before you can call it a failure.

John McCormac
John McCormac

For some of us, the domain name business is our business. That's why we take some comments about what constitutes a success or failure seriously. Our reasoning may differ somewhat from your opinion of what makes a TLD a success or flop. Success and failure in business tend to have clear metrics and do not rely on mere opinion. The .me and .tv are officially ccTLDs but they tend to be referred to as repurposed TLDs. Perhaps your blog post served its purpose being controversial merely for the sake of being controversial. The reality is that you don't seem to understand the function of various TLDs and how they are used and you have failed to consider the key element of how a TLD is used when determining if a TLD is a success or a flop. While I realise that the blog post is just your opinion, it makes some dubious assumptions. The McAfee study from 2007 does not seem to have been a complete survey of any TLD and is based, according to methodology, on McAfee's site safety assessment database and it included 9.1 million websites. That's only a fraction of the number of sites on the web. Thus extrapolating this to claim that 7.5% of .info sites are potentially dangerous is somewhat inaccurate. Claiming that "most individuals have a vested interest in one or more of the newer TLDs" does not detract from the abject poverty of facts and statistics in your blog post. Perhaps in future you can concentrate on facts rather than opinion in your pursuit of controversy.

Daniel Foster
Daniel Foster

Thanks again for the comments everyone. A lot of people seem to be commenting that .web and .xxx don't fit the list because they were never introduced to the root DNS, and thus never had a chance to be a success or failure. Whether or not to include proposed TLDs was something I debated, but in the end I decided that it didn't matter. There are a lot of ideas that never make it past the planning table simply because they are flops to begin with, so why they should they be excluded? In fact, one could go so far as to argue that the greatest failures in any market are those products that never make it to production. As for names like .tv and .me, those are ccTLDs. While they may be marketed as generic extensions, they were never meant to serve that role. I knew this article would be controversial because success and failure are both very subjective things. This is especially true in the domain name community, where most individuals have a vested interest in one or more of the newer TLDs.

John McCormac
John McCormac

The .xxx TLD never launched and as such it can't actually be deemed a flop. The .museum and .aero are micro TLDs rather than massmarket TLDs with a potentially large registrant base. If I recollect correctly, the registrants have to satisfy some criteria in order to register a domain in these gTLDs. This concept might be somewhat alien to those who are only used to registering .com/net/org etc where there is no such requirement. TLDs that have specific registration rules tend to be smaller than those where anybody can register domains. This is one of the main factors in the success of .com registration volumes. The .info is not exactly an alternative to .com TLD. And neither is it a failure. The monthly growth pattern in .info gTLD is cyclic and is driven by special offers. Many .info registrations would be brand protection registrations. The .info is actually a widely recognised gTLD in Europe. The numbers tend to disagree with your opinion that it is a flop. Again .web runs into the reality wall. It was never launched so it effectively has not flopped. The domain industry is a very complex one and it can be hard to understand. It is far more than .com and the gTLDs. However the biggest problem with it is people extrapolating a minimal, often purely .com, bit of knowledge to the rest of the extensions. Measuring everything by .com standards means that every TLD that does not have .com levels of registrations is a failure. However the reality is that Country Code TLDs, the ccTLDS are now eclipsing .com in some countries. The .com is a global TLD, its use is far more localised. The single element that really determines whether an extension is a success or flop is usage.

Michelle
Michelle

Not sure how you can say xxx has failed as it has never even started and I do not agree with your choice of info but many have failed and I am sure you could have wrote about many more.

Michael Clark
Michael Clark

(And by the way, I like my michaelclark.name domain.)

Michael Clark
Michael Clark

How can you not mention .biz? A trying too hard to be cool TLD? A misspelling? Ugh. And also, .jobs. Except for some adult themed domains is any real site running with a .jobs TLD?

Greg Matthews
Greg Matthews

No TLD flop list would be complete without inclusion of the ccTLD of Tuvalu. How on Earth did you miss .TV?

Garin Kilpatrick
Garin Kilpatrick

Cool post Daniel! I am of the opinion that a TLD is what you make it. The TLD .tt is a failure in terms of widespread adoption but for Wordpress Founder Matt Mullenweg it works quite well for his homepage http://ma.tt. My prediction is that .web will in fact be approved in 2010. I say this because it should exist already. I am amazed that the pointless .museum exists and the highly relevant .web does not. For my personal Blog I use http://gar1n.com to match my Twitter user name. I still think a generic .com, .net, or .org is the best way to go for most websites. With thousands of new domains being registered daily creativity is becoming an increasingly important factor in the success of choosing a domain.

gus
gus

You are forgetting .name .me .tel .mp .travel .mobi and more to come :)

Steve Fox
Steve Fox

How can they be flops if they never had a chance. XXX would be a huge hit but they won't authorize it which I cheer them for. If xxx goes live it will make a killing and I am sure many companies are spending millions on lobbying.

barefoottech
barefoottech

Addendum to previous comment I have NEVER had any .info based sites banned by Google. Indeed have had several placed very highly for the related search terms for periods of several years including several that outranks the .com It is often the style of site that is often associated with the .info gTGLD that gets it banned. I see just as many using other TLDs. At $9 or less the domain registration fee is not a factor if potential Pay-per-Click earnings are often $3 or more per click.

barefoottech
barefoottech

I totally agree except .info .info renewals fee's are often exactly the same as the other gTLD's it is often the Registration Fee that is discounted. There is however larege numbers of credible and LARGE .info sites. In Australia and Germany for instance. Yes some info based sites are spammer or scrapper sites , but so are a large number of gTLD and ccTLD sites. ALSO .ws was NEVER Website but is a ccTLD for Samoa, a sall Western Pacific Country near American Samoa.

Daniel Foster
Daniel Foster

Thanks for the comments everyone. @ Frank and Comment #2- I know for a fact that a lot of content scraper sites and link farms use .info simply because the registration fee is often as little as $2.99 or $0.99 for the first year. If you know your domain is going to be banned on Google in three months, you might as well buy the cheapest one. You can't beat 8 or 9 .infos for the price of 1 .com! But I agree that .info's heavy promotion probably had something to do with its popularity among spammers as well. @ Brandon- You're right, I did! I guess there are just too many failed TLDs out there to name. If .ws got approved, then I wonder why not .web? It's a much better extension in comparison.

Brandon Checketts
Brandon Checketts

You forgot '.ws', which is supposed to stand for 'Website'. If you have to explain it to everybody, it probably isn't going to work. In a few more years you will probably be able to add .mobi to the list

domain forum
domain forum

not bad article, although .info is a bit of a phallacy. most spam comes from .com , and thats percentage wise too. fact .info is a good extension but not for ecommerce you want a good .com or cctld for that, also .mobi seems to be getting some big names behind it but still has a long way to go

Frank Michlick (DomainNameNews)
Frank Michlick (DomainNameNews)

Thanks for sharing your opinions on these TLDs. As for .INFO, I don't think it was not the low renewal price that attracted spammers and phishers, but rather the countless promotions for the initial registration. It is a semi-popular domain for the French and German speaking population of the world though, often ranking right after the ccTLD as a second choice.

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