How do you build a cult-like following for a domain extension?
How do you brand something that only appears in the address bar of a web browser?
I (virtually) got to sit down with one of the team behind the domain extension .xyz to talk about how they have been able to turn a simple domain extension into a worldwide online trend and global brand.
And we will get to that in just one sec… But first…
What is a domain extension?
In case you’re wondering, a domain extension is “.com,” “.co,” or “.xyz.” It’s the part that comes after a website domain name,and before a url-slug.
Controlled by ICANN, there has recently been a release of thousands of different domain extensions. And while you’ve got more choices than ever, there are only a few major players in the market, with of course .com being the largest.
But .xyz is the largest out of the new extensions, which was part of a release that took place in 2013:
What are the unique challenges of branding a domain extension?
If you’re goal is to sell domains with a very specific extension, you’ve got to find a way to make that extension cool. Branding for .xyz started as a movement for “generation XYZ” before transitioning into a business.
This is a great audience-first approach that helps validate that there is some power behind the brand. Seeing as how the entire business is built around the brand, it’s fairly smart of them to validate their brand power, before applying for ownership of an entire domain extension.
If you fall into the category of a “brand-centric” company, you should absolutely learn from Xyz and start with the audience, and not the product.
Our Interview with XYZ
So I sat down with Shayan Rostam – the Global Director of XYZ, the global tech company, which of course owns the extension .xyz – in order to understand more about their company and the unique challenges they face when branding a domain extension. Here’s all the questions I asked him:
What does .xyz represent to you?
Shayan: What makes .xyz so unique is that it represents whatever you want. Everyone knows that “XYZ” is the ending of the alphabet, so it just makes sense as the ending for your domain, regardless of what language you speak. There’s no predefined meaning for .xyz, which allows anyone to use it for any purpose, whether that’s a blog, business, or branded link shortener.
Over the past couple years, we have had a lot of passionate customers tell us what .xyz means to them. For example, Umake.xyz and other businesses in the graphics/architecture/engineering/virtual reality industry really like .xyz because X, Y, and Z are the axes in the 3D coordinate system.
In China, “XYZ” means “little universe” or “the next chapter,” among other things. For others, like Maybe.xyz, “XYZ” is a placeholder for their solution.
Where did XYZ come up with the idea of creating this domain extension and brand, and when did this start to become a real thing?
Shayan: When ICANN announced the new domain program in 2012, we applied for .xyz with the mission of bringing choice, affordability, and flexibility to the next generation of internet users. In other words, .xyz was launched with the intention of being the go-to domain extension for young adults who are developing their first online presence, businesses that are just starting up or rebranding, and people in emerging internet markets (like China, India, or Africa) who are using the internet for the first time.
Our application for .xyz was approved by ICANN in 2013, so that’s when we started building the brand and voice behind XYZ. Then in June 2014, .xyz was globally launched. Fast forward two years and .xyz is now the most popular new domain extension in the world, and even more popular than some well known endings, such as .info, .co, .us, and .biz.
What really sets xyz apart from other domain extensions?
Shayan: What really sets .xyz apart from other domains is the passion of the team behind it. XYZ’s CEO, Daniel Negari, is believed to be the youngest registry operator in the world. He’s assembled a diverse, sophisticated, and creative team that can help internet users all over the world share their passion through the community we are cultivating, coined Generation XYZ.
The passion of the XYZ team really trickles down to the people and businesses who register .xyz domains. From the DMs to the calls just to say hi, the level of engagement from our customers is tremendous. To show our appreciation for all of their support, we highlight many of our favorite .xyz websites in our marketing material, such as in weekly #WebsiteWednesday blog posts and on www.gen.xyz/live.
How have you been able to build your brand around the domain extension? What unexpected turns has this process led to? Good or bad.
Shayan: Absolutely. Before .xyz even launched, #GenXYZ was the hashtag introduced for the Generation XYZ community on social media. As our following grew, we decided to use gen.xyz (short for generation.xyz) as our consumer-facing website. Come to think of it, gen.xyz is basically our own branded link shortener!
We’ve also seen a lot of other businesses and individuals incorporate .xyz into their own brand for uniformity across their website and all social media platforms. For example, Throne.xyz, a popular sneaker culture website and app, uses @THRONExyz for all of their accounts. This ensures that your handles will likely always be available, they’ll match your web address, and your followers can always easily find you. We highlight some other websites doing the same thing here.
What do you think about using a .xyz domain as a link shortener?
Shayan: It’s a great idea! We’ve run into a few in the past, but we’re really excited to see .xyz on a platform that allows ANYONE to make THEIR domain a link shortener.
We often hear people say that they don’t have time to build out a website or they don’t need one. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t need a branded domain! I think there’s a great opportunity with Rebrandly for individuals to register their FirstNameLastName.xyz and use it to share all of their social media profiles in a professional way (i.e. ShayanRostam.xyz/in for LinkedIn, ShayanRostam.xyz/fb for Facebook, ShayanRostam.xyz/ig for Instagram, etc). Likewise, businesses can use this for different marketing initiatives and products and track the performance of their campaigns.
Where do you see branding for domain extensions going? What’s the future for xyz?
Shayan: Brand management is important whether you are an individual or represent a business. With 24-hour news cycles and the constant stream of information, it’s now more important than ever that you stay on top of your audience’s mind. Having an intuitive, branded link shortener is a great way of doing that, which can then be shared on business cards, in social media posts, digital and print advertisements…the opportunities are endless.
Even beyond branding, it’s really convenient to have your own link shortener that you can use as shortcuts to your cloud storage folders, articles you’re saving for later, or to quickly share links with others using a clean URL.
As for .xyz, we plan on continuing to support #GenXYZ as the go-to domain extension for the next generation of internet users. Being offered by Rebrandly – and for such a great price – is a big step in the right direction, since this really embodies our mission of bringing choice, affordability, and flexibility to the internet.
Shayan Rostam is the Global Director of Registry Operations for XYZ, the Las Vegas and Santa Monica-based registry operator of the world’s most popular new domain extension, .xyz, as well as industry-specific endings like .College, .Rent, .Security, and .Cars. Since launching in June 2014, .xyz domains have been registered in 230 countries through 160 accredited registrars.
Just from a few days of interacting with Shayan and the marketing team at XYZ I can tell this company is doing great things and will be moving forward fast in the future. A lot of people talk about having passion, these guys are proving it.
If you haven’t bet on .xyz yet, now might be the time to find some favorite domains and snatch them up.
And from a branding standpoint, these guys really get it. They are in it to make a difference and support next-generation internet goers, which is only going to become a larger and larger population over just the next couple of years.
So what do you think? Going to buy an .xyz domain? Or still not interested? Let us know in the comments below.
Head of Growth at Rebrandly. Derric is a lifelong entrepreneur and passionate about helping startups and marketers not suck. He speaks, practices, and blogs about growth and digital marketing on Rebrandly and across the universe.