The battle for catchy domain names just got a whole lot shorter but is it really all that sweeter?

Six weeks after the arrival of the shorter domain name “.nz”, thousands of companies and individuals have forked out for the new moniker. Sure it’s a competitive search engine numbers game, but do you really need to secure your spot?

On the last day of September this year, the ‘.nz’ domain name came up for grabs. Let loose by the Domain Name Commission, which was appointed by InternetNZ and international domain name organisation Icann, the domain name joins the likes of ‘.kiwi’ (from Dot Kiwi) in shorter name offerings for New Zealand individuals and businesses.

Its uptake was big. Within 24 hours, just over 17,000 registrations of the shortened name were recorded. Over the first week that rose to 24,853.

While a drop in the bucket compared to the approximately 550,000 registrations ending with ‘.co.nz’ or ‘.net.nz’, it nonetheless signals a willingness from businesses and individuals to dip their toes into the new waters.

But the scene couldn’t be more different for “.kiwi”, as it passes its six month milestone. The only major players taking up those domain names have been Lotto, the Mad Butcher, and some spirited individuals such as Olympic triathlete Bevan Docherty.

In fact Richard Conway, CEO of search optimisation company PureSEO, says he’s bailing from the .kiwi game. “When .kiwi came out, we bought all our domains with IP protection [in mind], more than anything.

“Since, we’ve let those lapse, the reason being we’re not actually seeing the real benefit of having them in terms of ranking. I haven’t seen any .kiwi domain names ranking really well,” Conway says.

Part of the problem is how people perceive the .kiwi name, Conway says – it’s more relaxed and casual, which means, at least in the online SEO world, less professional. On the other hand, ‘.nz’ has a broad enough appeal that allows the grandma running a home baking venture to the serious international corporation all a bite of the virtual pie.

Campbell Gardiner, communications manager at the Domain Name Commission, agrees. “I think what we are seeing actually is that these new types of .nz names are appealing to all sorts of people,” he says.

“They’re appealing to individuals, they’re appealing to businesses, they’re appealing to students, mums and dads, grandparents, really to anyone that wants to represent themselves online with the shorter .nz name.”

Natalie Maynor (Creative Commons)

Credit: Natalie Maynor (Creative Commons)

However, it’s all a numbers game, and ultimately the uptake of these domains will remain with who uses them first, Conway says.

Those most influential in their respective fields will be the leaders of change – if it happens at all – and if Microsoft New Zealand changed from ‘microsoft.co.nz’ to ‘microsoft.nz’, then that would be a strong indicator for the rest of the market to take something like this on a more serious note, he says.

Of course, one very important question remains unanswered – should I buy my name (again) in case someone turns my brand into a porn site, or something equally dodgy?

Icann certainly believes so, yet there are arguments on the opposite side of the spectrum. A recent stuff.co.nz opinion piece suggested the proliferation of new domain names will simply devalue the existing space, and search engines will be optimised to ignore websites that don’t answer correctly to the search parameters.

Or, on a more sour note, the writer suggested it’s just another ploy by the domain name dealers to sell you an extra expense, not much unlike the unwelcomed religious doorknockers that come and put a dent on your weekend every other Saturday.

But at the end of the day – according to Gardiner – “these names are no better worse, they’re just another choice.”