Facebook.com, pinterest.com, instagram.com, linkedin.com... All the giants have .com domains in the social media sphere, so is it important to have one as well if the business will be in the social media sphere?
This topic arises for me daily, and I've written numerous articles dealing with it in whole or in part. You'll get a lot of "I reckon" answers from people whose main professional focus is elsewhere, but I doubt they've been immersed in the question as I have been for years – researching actual domain market trends, analyzing brands' behavior online, and advising clients on domain selection.
Every week, I observe companies who've already achieved some measure of success with a website built on a different TLD nevertheless pay a substantial amount of money to obtain the matching .COM. In fact, I'm publishing an article about some of last week's upgrades tomorrow at DomainNameWire.com, just as I did the previous Thursday.
These companies buy the .COM belatedly, for pressing reasons of their own, without any cajoling from me. They pay a lot to do it. So it MUST matter. If it didn't, they wouldn't.
Where is Del.icio.us today? Delicious.com. And Join.me (which I'd consider a great non-.com name) still bought JoinMe.com even after paying $45,000 for their .ME.
I'm not a .COM purist. Half of my own domain portfolio is composed of other TLDs, ranging from .ORG and .NET to .FM, .TV, and .CLUB – to say nothing of country codes.
.COM isn't always the only answer. But for global or U.S.-based projects, a business must seriously evaluate any decision to neglect .COM.
Some of the issues include brand protection, search-engine competition, ambiguity for customers in SERPs, perceived amateurishness versus professionalism, traffic leakage, email misdirection, susceptibility to phishing, familiarity, memorability, and permanence.
Constantly having to differentiate your domain from a similar domain that you don't own gets old very quickly. And sending
customers to Google to run the gauntlet of ads from your competitors is never a prudent alternative to direct navigation.
Consumers (especially in the USA) expect .COM. It's the default. We can talk about Facebook and Google and Instagram purely in terms of their brand name primarily because the suffix is assumed. When the TLD isn't obvious, it must be spoken. That can sometimes be quite cumbersome and tends to lead to confusion or misremembrance.
As a namer, I generally like .COM because it is a blank canvas. It gives a startup the widest range of branding options. Building on, say, .CLOTHING or even .CLUB imposes those keywords as limits on brand identity.
There have been trends in .LY and .IO. But I don't see much staying power in the former (which has resulted in many expensive .COM rebrands). And .IO has little mass consumer appeal. It's mainly fashionable within the bubble of tech startups.
I plan to launch projects in a range of TLDs myself – not just .COM. Personally, I'm TLD-agnostic. I can cite examples of brands that did just fine without .COM. And I usually recommend some outlandish non-.COM name ideas to clients alongside .COMs.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer. I hate giving general advice. If you have a particular project and a particular set of brand name / domain options, then let's look at the particular case.