No matter what kind of website you build - be it an ecommerce site or a personal blog, you’re going to need a domain name for it. Your site has to be called anything other than the seemingly random combination of numbers that we call the IP address. This is where the age-old debate on .net vs .com comes in and by this, we refer to the discussions on the most suitable domain extensions for websites. In this article, we’ll look into website addresses and compare different domain extensions and how they are used - e.g. .com vs .net, .org vs .com, etc. We will also cover what these extensions stand for and why it’s important to understand the difference between .com and .net or other extensions and how it affects your website’s online visibility and your brand reputation.
What’s in a website name?
A website address is composed of two parts - a domain name and a domain extension. The former typically connects the website to the brand, product or service for which the site is created. The latter - also known as top-level domains (TLDs) - basically define what type of website you have.
When you create a website on Strikingly, you get a custom website name that becomes part of the mystrikingly.com domain for free. Alternatively, you can register a personalized domain name and choose between a .net vs .com or even a .com vs. org for domain extension subject to the availability of that website address.
There are thousands of domain extensions available but only a handful are widely used. These include:
What is .com?
The .com domain extension is arguably the most popularly used and therefore, considered to be most valuable for those who want to create a professional-looking website. It was originally designed for commercial website hence the name but its use has extended to virtually every type of website known to man. In many cases, even when users find several other alternatives, they still opt for .com vs .net or even .com vs .net vs. org, for that matter.
This domain extension has become so popular that the phrase “dot-com” was coined to refer to the newly minted industry of online startups during the 90s. People have come to associate the .com TLD with the web in general because almost half of global websites use it. By default, users will typically consider it the domain extension of any web address they can think of. Having said that, going for a .com vs. .net can make your website, and by extension, your brand, easier to remember in many cases. Because of this there’s a higher risk that they might be routed to a different website if you’re using .net vs. com and they assume your website address ends with the latter.
The popularity of the .com TLD also comes with a caveat - availability of website addresses with this domain extension can be quite limited. This poses a challenge to website owners who want to choose a domain name that is not only suitable for their needs but also SEO-friendly. This is why most businesses look up the feasibility of their selected company name based on the availability of its domain name as part of developing their branding for a new venture.
Having said that, it’s important to note that you are not in any way required to use a .com website address. In many cases, other domain extensions may be more appropriate so don’t discount the idea that in a .net vs. .com debate, the former may stand a chance of winning depending on the user’s need.
What is .net?
Next to .com, .net is another popularly-used domain extension. You might come across this TLD as an alternative when you choose a domain name for your website.
The .net domain extension is short for “network”. About 4% of global websites use this TLDR, which is still far from the number of sites using .com. In recent years, .net has become a viable alternative especially for businesses in industries related to networks or internet services such as web hosting, online project management tools, and databases. You might want to choose .net vs. .org if you’re starting an online venture under this industry or if your business domain in .com is no longer available.
It is important to note, however, that if you opt for .net vs. .com as your domain extension, make sure to look up your business domain in .com to make sure that the entity owning that address is not a direct competitor. You’re running the risk of losing clients to the .com website otherwise.
What is .org?
As if the ongoing debate on .net vs. .com is not enough, here comes .org. The .org TLD was created mainly for non-profit organization websites such as educational materials, charities and open-source projects. It is one of the first domain extensions created in the 1980s and is considered one of the most credible TLDs.
What does .org mean? Short for organization, the .org domain extension was designed for entities that were inappropriate for the existing TLDs at the time of its creation. If your website is not for a university, government office or military, and neither is it a profit-generating business, you might be more inclined to use .org vs. .com.
While nothing really restricts businesses from buying .org website addresses, traditionally, this domain extension is still associated with non-profit organizations. People might view a for-profit entity’s use of .org as misleading considering the commercial nature of the brand. If you’re seriously considering .org to get out of the .net vs. .com conundrum, we highly recommend that you rethink your options because the optics may not be good for an ecommerce business, for instance, with this domain extension.
With domain availability a growing issue these days, especially with more businesses wanting to snap up .com and .net addresses, it’s not uncommon to find brands looking towards the .org domain extension as an alternative. Armed with the right digital marketing strategy and a transparent disclosure on how a website will be used, a for-profit organization might still be able to use this TLD to its advantage. But just the same, it’s best to keep this as your third option and best explore your options for using .net vs. .com instead.
Comparing .net vs. .com
The most obvious difference between .com vs. .net is in where these domain extensions are typically used. As the names suggest, .net is made for “network”- related websites - anything that has to do with the internet or networking platforms - while .com is for a much broader umbrella of websites designed for commercial purposes.
If you are building a forum, for instance, you might want to go with a .net website domain. On the other hand, if you are designing a website for a restaurant, your website address with a .com TLDR might be more suitable.
But given the popularity of .com vs. .net, the semantic differences between these two are so often ignored as .net becomes a logical alternative when businesses find their chosen domain unavailable in .com. Whether you choose .net vs. .com, however, shouldn’t affect your website design or your content. To a larger extent, it shouldn’t also impact your site’s ability to rank well in relevant searches as long as you create an effective SEO strategy around your content.
Best practices for deciding on a domain extension
What goes into choosing .net vs. .com or opting for .org vs. .com? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
1. Determine your site’s purpose
Ultimately, your objectives for building a website will have a say on the domain extension you opt for. If you are offering free services or you’re creating a website as part of a bigger brand’s corporate social responsibility initiative, you might go for .org vs. .com.
2. Look up your business name
If you’re in the process of starting a business, it helps to look up your desired business name first before setting anything in stone. Find out if the domain name is still available and if you can, it’s also good to find out its history - what kind of content did it originally contain. The internet is a vast space that keeps old versions of pages and you don’t want your business to be associated with a domain name that was used for a shady operation.
If you find that your prospective domain name is no longer available, you might want to consider other alternatives such as opting for a different domain extension. For establishing brand recall, many companies who have to use .net website addresses normally incorporate this domain extension into their branding.
3. Consider the costs
Registering a custom domain name shouldn’t cost a lot of money but there are times when you may end up spending a lot more because your selected domain name happens to be a really popular one. Bigger brands have been known to purchase their brand domains at a higher price from people who beat them to it previously. If your budget is limited, consider the cost of acquiring a domain name and be ready to make a few concessions such as possibly changing to a cheaper one that may not be exactly what you want but is still as close to the original as you can get. Another option that might work for startups and individuals new to website building is to take advantage of the free domain service provided by Strikingly when they build their websites for free on this platform.