Fear of commitment

The Snapchat of web addresses: Meet the domains that aren’t meant to last

May 2, 2014
May 2, 2014

Your marriage may last forever, but the website you register to announce it to the world won’t. A new top-level domain (TLD)—the last bit of a web address, like the .com in qz.com—is bringing a Snapchat mentality to the fusty world of domain names. By making it very expensive for users to hold on to their websites after a certain period of time, these sites are effectively built to self-destruct—or at least move on.

Domain names are usually sold on the assumption that owners can renew their sites indefinitely. There is an unspoken understanding that these renewals are charged at non-extortionate rates, so that a particularly valuable website will never be held hostage by the domain-name registrar at which the website is registered.

Yet .wed is upending this long-standing agreement. As it is, .wed domains will be sold at a significant premium to the roughly $15 per year that people are used to paying for .com. For the first and second year, a .wed domain (AliandSalma.wed, for example) will cost in the region of $80 per year. But in the third year the cost will shoot up to $30,000 or more, says the website for Atgron, the company behind .wed.

On the face of it, this sounds bonkers. Except in the secondary market, where domains sometimes change hands for large sums of money, few people have ever attempted to charge more than several hundred dollars for a new web address. (The $25,000 fee for a site at .sucks is an exception, though some dismiss it as a “predatory shakedown scheme.”)

But the thinking behind .wed’s pricing makes a lot of sense: Atgron’s rationale is that first names are common, demand for wedding websites is rising, and the interest in such sites all but evaporates shortly after the event itself. So a year or two after Ali and Salma are married, maybe another Ali and Salma should be allowed to use the domain instead of it sitting unused and unvisited. The first pair can then move to a third-level domain—Atgron offers a range of them. So Ali and Salma could buy up aliandsalma.baby.wed to celebrate the arrival of a kid, or aliandsalma.inlove.wed if they want a permanent home that celebrates their union, or aliandsalma.saalgirah.wed if they want to celebrate their anniversary in India.

Not everyone is convinced that the gambit will work. Kevin Murphy at Domain Incite, an industry publication, dubs .wed the “weirdest” new TLD launch that he’s seen to date. That may indeed be the case. Domain names have been a dull and rarely changing aspect of internet infrastructure since the web came into being. The whole point of the new top-level-domain program was to shake things up a bit. It appears .wed has risen to the challenge.

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