Long gone are the days of the Dot-com boom. And yet, premium dot-com domain names still go for tens of thousands of dollars.

However, if you’ve been to any relatively new startup site or service in the past couple years, you’ve surely noticed at least a couple sites that don’t sport a dot com domain, instead they use a domain hack for their web handle.

A domain hack is when you use something like “somedoma.in” instead of the traditional “somedomain.com” or “somedomain.net”, etc. In simple terms, instead of using a standard Top Level Domain (TLD) like “.com”, a site uses a country code code domain, like “.es” (Spain’s country code) as the URL suffix, substituting part of the actual domain name with the country code. So instead having to register “trees.com”, the site owner can register “tre.es”, which is significantly shorter. I recently used this approach with my project devte.es.

Y U NO USE .COM?!?!?!

There are, of course, several reasons one might choose this approach:

Some people may point to the benefits of having a shorter URL with a domain hack. In fact, URL shortening services like bit.ly and cl.ly were some of the first sites to use domain hacks.

Some people might even say that domain hacks just make your product/service look a little cooler.

But in my experience the most common reason for a domain hack is simply because the “.com” version of your domain is taken.

So that begs the question…are domain hacks devaluing “.com” domains?

What’s in a name?

The truth is while you used to be able to buy a domain name, do nothing with it, and sell it for bucko bucks, such practices are not only long gone they are actually not even legit anymore.

And neither should they be. Truth is, your domain name is really only as valuable as what it represents. If it represents a powerful brand or trademark that doesn’t belong to you, then you deserve no money for it in the first place, and will likely have to forfeit it, often to the tune of damage fees as well.

And if your domain represents a business concept, or popular word or phrase with no business model (or application) behind it, then it’s basically worthless to others.

The real value of a domain is in the actual product behind it. The business model is what is valuable, and there’s no magic word or name that you must use for your business model. Naming something is a dynamic process, not a static one.

And of course, in free market economics, the price of anything is only as much as the market will bear.

But technically speaking

Personally, I think “devaluing” is too strong a word. Partly because those domains on their own have only theoretical value anyway, and partly because regardless of said absence of real value the perception for .com version value is still relatively high.

But reducing the market for those domains? Absolutely.

In fact, just this evening, the very thing that prompted me to write this post was the spark for an interesting business idea. I knew exactly what I wanted to call the project, so I promptly looked up the dot com version only to find out the asking price is a mere $32,000.

Yes, that is THIRTY TWO THOUSAND. For the domain, it may be a reasonable price (I don’t personally think so, but somebody with the resources and business plan might). But, reasonable or not, I don’t have that kind of money to spend on it.

So what did I do? I registered the “.io” version instead for two years for about $80 total. Not bad compared against $32K.

And fortunately for me, the days when if you wanted to be taken seriously on the web you had to have a .com domain name have long fading into the sunset. Granted, you still may have a harder time getting taken seriously with a .biz domain, but with domain hacks pretty readily available, you’re options are much broader now.

Sorry Mr. $32K Domain Salesman. I’m sticking with my hack.