09 September 2013

Personalised web addresses ... are they worth it?
Or are they akin to vanity publishing?

Personalised web addresses ... are they worth it? or are they akin to vanity publishing?

Patrick Comerford

Many years ago, when dot.com businesses were booming, and having a dot.com web address was the height of business trendiness, The Irish Times acquired the address ireland.com and those involved felt they had pulled off a major business coup – or, as some people in Ireland might say, had pulled a stroke.

It was a manoeuvre that was boasted about for a long time, and that was seen as a long-term business investment. At the time, those of us who were on the staff got to select our own @ireland.com email addresses. Some of us went for short and snappy, memorable addresses (mine was theology@...); others went for personal first name terms; I’m sure many went for quite geekish names that they later came to regret.

But my address was memorable, I never had to write it down for people I met, nor did I see the need for business cards. It was easy to remember, and I held on to it without charge long after I left the staff of The Irish Times.

But then, last year, suddenly and without much notice, the Ireland.com address, for both websites and emails, was sold off. I had little time to tell me friends, I certainly had no time to filter through my full contact book, and a number of Church directories that had already gone to press still have shelf-life with my old address. Who knows how many emails I have missed in the past year? How many old friends and distant contacts who decided to get in touch once again are still waiting for a reply and think me very rude?

Of course, I can do without all those con-artists pretending to write as Nigerian widows with large sums in bank accounts that they need my help to release, or as Congolese lawyers saying they have money left to someone with my name? And I can certainly do without those emails offering me a “genuine PhD” for $25 ... or even less.

But it did give me a web presence and a memorable address that were invaluable.

Recently, however, I too invested in buying a dot.com address.

I bought the address, or least the rights to the address www.patrickcomerford.com a few weeks ago. It certainly cost a lot less than The Irish Times paid for its Ireland.com address many years ago, and a lot less than The Irish Times sold that address for last year.

But my domain name purchase has nothing to do with vanity, but all to do with accessibility and availability, for www.patrickcomerford.com is an easy address to remember ... certainly a lot easier to remember than www.revpatrickcomerford.blogspot.com for example.

Last week in Greece, I was reading a syndicated newspaper column by Thomas J Fitzgerald of The New York Times in which he said owning “an internet domain is a bit like owning real estate.”

He writes that like the competition for real estate the rivalry for domains with the most desired addresses can be fierce, and that it is not uncommon for people or organisations to be locked out of their first choice.

He says the dot.com extension has remained the extension that is most recognised by consumers and most coveted by businesses.

“Being able to get a domain name that fully reflects what you are trying to do as a small-business owner is important,” said Mike McLaughlin, the vice-president of domains for GoDaddy. “That perfect name contains the essence of what you want to achieve.”

I’m not blogging as a small-business owner, or trying to bolster my ego. But I hope my new dot.com address makes this blog more accessible, and the name contains the essence of what you expect when you come to read this blog.