I grew up in a booming suburb of sorts, and one of my most vivid memories (you can't choose what sticks!) was of a strange clump of business-centric hotels that popped up just off the freeway near my house. Even to a grade-schooler, the likelihood of all these rooms filling up on a given weekend was extremely low, yet the construction marched on. Knowing the basics of supply and demand, I was baffled, so I asked my dad to explain the logic. He said, "Well... it looks like all the market researchers saw the same opportunity at the same time."
What I've learned since then is that competition is good, but unless the demand is huge, some of the players will inevitably lose out. So here I am, looking at a handful of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) related to photography, wondering A. why the world needs five extensions for the same purpose, and B. which one(s) will rise to the top.
The "why" question will have to be for a later post, but predicting popularity is a thought exercise I can get behind. So let's lay out the contenders:
Current popularity isn't necessarily indicative of future success, but it is a good place to start. Here are the total registration stats (up to the time of writing) according to ntldstats.com.
- .photography - 49,651
- .photos - 16,820
- .photo - 11,988
- .pics - 6,017
- .pictures - 4,241
.Photography is clearly in the lead, but the gTLD program is still in its first year, so there's plenty of time for the other extensions to catch up.
Let's pretend for a bit that I'm a picture-taker looking for maximum exposure. Like many people trying to brand themselves, I want my brand to be Chris Hall [INSERT PHOTO TLD], which would give me chrishall.TLD. Using Google's Keyword Planner, here are the worldwide search stats for each of the gTLDs as keywords.
- photography - 368,000 monthly searches
- photos - 450,000 monthly searches
- photo - 823,000 monthly searches
- pics - 201,000 monthly searches
- pictures - 673,000 monthly searches
Photo wins this battle by a longshot, but keep in mind that this would be for a worldwide audience. If you're just doing photography in the US, you'd want to modify the search for that audience (pictures is the winner).
Keep in mind though that search volume isn't necessarily your friend. My general rule of thumb is that the more popular a search term, the more established the brands will be trying to rank for it.
I'm a guy who's more than willing to pay for a better, more fulfilling experience (I'll take a craft brew over a big-box bottle any day), but when all things are equal, I do glance at prices. Fortunately, all the TLDs on this list are in the same basic price range, but there's still a winner and loser.
Eliminated: .photo (.photo costs more than .photos, and given how similar they are, it'd be hard not to go with the less expensive option)
One naming test I like to use is the confusion test. Here's an example: If you have a .co domain name, how many people are going to accidentally type in .com? I can't speak for others, but it drives me nuts when I type in a domain and get thrown off by the domain extension.
Now, with the new gTLDs, I'm to a point where I don't instantly type in .com—but I still get thrown off by extensions that are too similar. And in this group, the fact that .photo and .photos are just one letter apart really stresses me out.
Eliminated: .photos (I already eliminated .photo)
Manually typing out domain names is probably pretty rare these days, but shorter names (and extensions) have quite a few benefits:
- less spelling errors
- generally easier to say
- less space needed on a sign or business card
And let's be honest, the kiddos aren't typing out full words anymore.
When people ask for my opinion on the matter, I tend to put aside all the SEO and just go with specificity—what works best for your brand? If you're a photographer, I'd go with .photography. If you're not a photographer, things get a little muddy.
Amongst the other gTLDs on the list, there seems to be one that's not like the others—.pictures. I happen to like .pictures as a TLD, but if someone told me their domain ended with .pictures, I might wonder if they're a photographer or an illustrator (maybe they draw their pictures?). For that reason, I'm bailing on .pictures as a winning option.
If you're looking for definitive, scientifically proven answers, I don't think I have what you're looking for. Truth be told, if you're a good photographer (or a bad one with lots of fans), it probably doesn't matter which TLD you use. But, for argument's sake, here are my winners.
WINNER (photographers): .photography
Photographers do photography. They don't just create pictures, they create art—so be proud of your calling and go with the corresponding gTLD.
WINNER (non-photographers): .pics
If you're not a photographer, you might as well eliminate all the fluff. Cut the letters, bypass the excess search competition, and go with .pics.