What is the value of owning a simple domain name? By that I mean owning as a domain name a popular single word such as chocolate, music or beer – or library. It can actually be enormously profitable. The business of snapping up simple names, turning them into domains and then building portal or retail sites around them is the topic of an article in the June 25 issue of BusinessWeek magazine. It profiles two businessmen who acquire single name domains where one usually finds a generic, and not very useful, web site. They then turn the site into a snazzy and informative center for one-stop shopping that represents all things related to that topic.
That got me thinking about the domain for the word library. First, who owns it, second, what’s there, and third, what could it be that it currently isn’t. Not that I was surprised, but I discovered that neither the domain for library.com or library.org is owned by ALA or any library assocation. Library.com is owned by a company that sells products to libraries and library.org is the exact type of generic site discussed in the article. While library.com may be hard to get, it seems that library.org is ripe for the taking. Think about it. Doesn’t it seem appropriate that anyone who goes to a domain named library.com or library.org should get taken to a site sponsored by the premier library organization. And the result shouldn’t be a redirect trip to www.ala.org. That’s for librarians. What we need to provide is a site that is all about libraries, with appropriate links to the best resources, but is geared to the public end user.
Why is this important? Research tells us that one in six Internet searchers never use a search box. They opt instead for typing their single word into the address bar of the browser. The goal is to get directly to a site that will be a starting point for information on that topic. We may not approve of that search strategy, but that’s what people do. From the domain owner’s perspective it’s a way to capture a huge number of searchers. So I’m recommending that ALA and our other professional library associations give some serious thought to buying up the library domains (both com and org), and then turning them into serious portals about libraries and librarians. This isn’t about making a big profit. It’s about creating awareness and capturing an opportunity to make a difference.