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How does a domain get cool? How does a domain becoming so trendy that everybody wants one? These are the questions that CEO of .CO Internet Juan Diego Calle doesn’t have to worry about because he runs what is arguably the coolest domain suffix on the planet right now.
At a basic level, .CO is the internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) assigned to Colombia, but it has become a major global internet domain player in recent years thanks to Calle and his team. Used by powerhouse companies such as Twitter (t.co), 500 startups (500.co) and Angellist (angel.co), the domain suffix has become the preferred choice for tech startups and geeks around the globe. There are currently 1.5-million .CO domains registered worldwide.
On a recent trip to New York we got to chat to the man behind the world’s trendiest domain. According to Calle, brand association (thanks, Twitter) has helped the brand grow, which has led to more people wanting to have .COs.
Calle reckons that getting the right domain name and suffix is very important when starting a company, because it is your name online and your piece of the internet.
Memeburn: Why did you start DotCo?
Juan Diego Calle: At the most fundamental level, we recognized that there was a scarcity of domain names that felt unnatural. We felt that there should be options out there that provide additional value, not just a utility. So we launched .co back in 2010 to disrupt the domain name industry, to change it up a bit.
We launched with the idea of building a global brand, tied to the concept of innovation. So everything we do is around innovation, startups, entrepreneurs, and we’re adding value by offering our customers not just a utility (not just a domain name) but access to a membership programme where they can get access to education, networking opportunities, promotional opportunities, etc.
For example, here at this conference [The Next Web USA], we have three companies that are DotCos exhibiting and they’re here as part of the membership programme. It’s something that they can have access to because they’re DotCo customers.
MB: DotCo is really seen as one of the coolest domain names out there. How did that happen?
JDC: If you want to be very dry and scientific about why it happened, I think it has a lot to do with brand association. So I think the fact that companies like Twitter are launched products on DotCo, a firm like 500 Startups is built on DotCo, or Angelist is Angel.co — I think that brand association with those companies has really propelled DotCo to the level where it’s at today.
MB: How has Colombia benefitted from releasing the second tier?
JDC: It’s huge. Before it was an under-utilised asset. They owned this asset but they weren’t doing anything with it. Now they license it to us and we pay them a percent of our revenue. For every DotCo domain that you register out there, the Colombian ministry of communications is profiting from the royalty.
What’s really nice about that is those revenues are being used to fund internet infrastructure initiatives in the country. You’re talking about a country that needs access to this sort of capital and we’re able to contribute by way of marketing DotCo global.
MB: How important is branding and finding the right domain to a company?
JDC: If you talk to any entrepreneur, or any small or medium sized business owner, and you talk to them about their experience of getting online, I think they’ll all relate. It’s extremely stressful, it’s an emotional moment getting your web address. Why? Because it’s your name on the internet. It’s your piece of real estate on the internet.
So it’s extremely important. It’s your little home in the digital world. Fortunately, the scarcity of domain names that used to exist has lessened. You have lots of alternatives, like .co, you have alternatives like .me, like .io, like .ly. So we don’t live in the restrictive world that we used to live in five years ago. We have more options now.
MB: Do you think having more options helps democratize the domain space?
JDC: Absolutely. The fact that there is scarcity in domain names is an unnatural thing. It’s caused by regulation. Those regulations need to be removed and you need to open it up and democratize it so there are more alternatives and more options.
MB: New York City is getting .nyc now. Do you think that’s something we’ll see more of?
JDC: Absolutely. I think that’s really cool. If you’re a sandwich shop in Manhattan, you can build your website on joessandwiches.nyc.
MB: How important is it that the right brands get onboard a new domain in the early stages?
I can relate back to a little bit of our history. In order to be successful in creating one of these domains when you’re starting out, you really have to associate it with really strong existing brands. In our case, we were able to get Twitter to use it. In the case of something like .africa, I would go after the big multi-national companies that are doing business in Africa and using that website. So for example, Shell.africa, and use that as a way to talk about their initiatives in Africa.
MB: What do you think the next stage of the web will look like?
JDC: First of all, I think we’re starting to see a shift back over to the web. We have all these great apps and these native apps (like iOS and Android), but I think that it’s slowly starting to shift back into the web. This is short term — in the next three to five years, we’re not going to have these different silos where there’s an app environment and there’s a web environment. I think all of that is going to come together.
Apart from that, everything will be online. Every little thing that we do. We’re already living in that world, but just more and more it’s becoming more of the case.
MB: What kind of data does DotCo collect in terms of how the domain is used?
JDC: We have a lot of data. By virtue of running this domain, we see across the entire space. There are a lot of privacy issues about what we can and can’t do with the data — we’re very careful about that. Essentially, it’s more of a sense of you start seeing patterns of what’s been successful and what hasn’t been successful, what websites are taking off and which haven’t. You can see interesting patterns in the data and maybe take advantage of them in some way.
MB: Conferences like LeWeb were some of the first to adopt .co. Do you think it’s a good option for companies getting into the conference space?
JDC: I think the association with conferences is largely because, particularly the tech conferences, conferences are always trying to establish themselves as being on the cutting edge. This is where you go to learn about what’s happening and what’s cool, and so I think they feel that, by associating with something that like DotCo, they’re going to benefit from a little bit of that.
We’re looking ahead. DotCom has been quite hot for the last 25 years or so, and what’s happening next is .co, .me, .io, all these cool new domain extension that have come out, and I think conferences are looking to align with that.
MB: Do you have any expansion plans for the brand?
JDC: If you want to try something cool, try pop. It’s a new product that we’re launching – it’s called pop.co — we’re very excited about it because it integrates the entire web experience. The entire experience of building a web presence is having a domain name, plus email, plus a website, and tying it altogether in a seamless experience. It’s pretty cool.
Image: LeWeb via Flickr.