the study of the meanings of words and phrases in language, or the meaning or relationship of meanings of a sign or set of signs; especially: connotative meaning
According to Merriam Webster, the term semantics is about meaning. Approach ten people on the street and ask them what .BIKE is about. Even if they haven’t heard of new domain names the chances are very good they’ll say, “It’s about bikes.” Same goes for .CAMERA, .EMAIL or .REPAIR. All these new domains are semantically meaningful because they refer to something specific that consumers want. Specificity is where Internet addressing is headed, and it’s a big reason Donuts got into this business.
Ask those ten people what .COM means, and you’ll get a puzzled stare, because it doesn’t mean anything to them. In the old days it was there to tell you you’re looking at a website address—before everyone learned the dot itself means it’s a web address. .COM has become semantically forgettable and meaningless. In the context of new TLDs, it means “miscellaneous.”
a similarity of characteristics suggesting a relationship
Affinities exist all around us, and they are very powerful. Businesses have affinity with their industry verticals, their geography and their community of customers, among other things. Individuals have affinity to a hobby, a church, an occupation, the business of an employer, or a sport.
Online providers of photographic services have strong affinity with .PHOTOGRAPHY because it tells the Internet what they do. It shares their affinity with their customers. They are no longer miscellaneous. The specificity of new gTLDs affords website owners something not possible in .COM—memorable and meaningful names to which they have a connection or affinity. As GoDaddy says, “We’re purposefully moving from a phase when choice was very limited…to a new namespace where domains can clearly indicate what you do, what your mission is or what problem you might solve.”
The power of affinity can be seen in markets where .COM was once dominant but is now a distant second to domains that show national identity (e.g., .DE for Germany, .UK for Britain, .AU for Australia). Millions of businesses in those countries abandoned .COM in favor of TLDs that highlight national identity. Half the world’s domains are now in these country TLDs. Why? Because businesses and their customers have more affinity with their countries than they do with .COM.
And obviously, this preference for affinity doesn’t just stop at national borders. Businesses and individuals have other, powerful affinities. Forward thinking pizza companies want to show customers their affinity with .PIZZA. They realize it’s a poor use of their marketing dollars to promote their affinity with the miscellaneous .COM.
Things get even better for the .PIZZA owners. First, almost every child on the planet knows what pizza means, and most will have a strong and measurable reaction to .PIZZA names. Few children feel the same about .COM. Second, search engines love new domains. If a website has a .PIZZA domain, what are the chances it’s content is predominantly (overwhelmingly) about pizza? Search engines won’t take long to work that out.
.COM has become diluted and meaningless. It adds nothing to an identity. Except perhaps to say, “I’m on the Internet somewhere.” .COM is “1999”—not “today,” and definitely not the future. New .COM registrations are extraordinarily long and much less meaningful when compared to a new registration in a new gTLD. And with its recent price decreases on new registrations (which apparently is necessary to match their low quality), .COM now means “low quality and cheap.”
.CITY, .COMPANY, .GALLERY, .FAMILY, .SHOES? And tons more to come…now those have meaning. Specificity. Affinity. They’re unique, fresh and expressive and not old and worn out.