Friday, April 30, 2010

Domain Name Acronyms

Back in the 1990s and early Aughts, before the Dot-Com Boom through well after the Dot-Com Bust, most businesses used acronyms for their domain names. The idea was that they were making it easier to visit their site by eliminating keystrokes. But the whole thing backfired, as people found it easier to remember full names than they did acronyms - not to mention the fact that few businesses bothered to try and associate themselves with these acronyms!

Acronyms became hyper-popular throughout pop-culture back in the '90s. Whether or not this had anything to do with the rise of the Web is arguable, and may never be known for certain, but acronyms certainly weren't limited to the online world. Kentucky Fried Chicken took to calling itself "KFC," and became one of the few businesses that actually bothered to bolster this association. Kentucky Fried Chicken eventually changed its operating name to KFC, but that is only one - albeit probably the most well-known - example.

To do this, KFC launched a massive advertising campaign across the large media - magazines, TV, movies, et.al. But at this time, a lot of websites had the money to do the same, yet none of them did! The Writer's Digest Book Club, for example, was originally found at WDBC.com (which is now a website design site) - but how in the world would anyone know that!? While it's true that most visitors to the WDBC site are specifically looking for that site, and so probably have this knowledge (from a targeted ad or mailer, et.al.), what about the people who would be interested if only they knew where to find it?

It's disingenuous for so many to denigrate the reach of websites without admitting that the approaches touted as "correct," back in the earliest days of the commercial Web, were fundamentally flawed. Using acronyms instead of full names absolutely was championed as The Right Way to do things, and one cannot discuss the Dot Com Bust without bringing-up such details - which have largely been literally excised from history.

Another flawed approach is the underscore. I never understood this, and up until five years ago - when I changed to a commercial site - I never got used to it, but using an underscore - as opposed to a dash - was the established, accepted, and purportedly correct way of writing names with more than one word. Instead of "The Weirding" - which would be translated to "The%20Weirding" - you were supposed to write it as "The_Weirding." Google only told people to replace the underscore with a dash about a year ago!

Why!? Why was anyone ever doing this in the first place? What was the reasoning behind this bizarre style? What took Google, and everyone else, so long to finally say, "Stop doing that!"?

Acronym usage exploded across the spectrum 15-20 years ago, and whether this was due to the rise of the Web or simply spilled-over, the popular thought was that domain names should be based on acronyms of a business' name, instead of the full name. Since so few businesses bothered to establish a link between their company and the domain name acronym, the whole thing backfired. Few experts include this, seemingly minor, detail when they discuss the Dot-Com Bust, yet it certainly played a hand in it.

© C Harris Lynn, 2010

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