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.IO, the Undeclared Alt TLD Darling of Tech Startups?

September 17, 2012

.IO domain logoLeading with a headline about .IO is likely to have many readers rolling their eyes.  Everyone knows that .com is king, and no one in their right mind would argue otherwise.  But when .com can’t be afforded, startups naturally turn to alternatives like .NET and .CO, right?

You may be surprised to learn that a fair share of tech startups have been making their home on .IO domains.  Following are twenty such examples, culled rather easily from a Google search using the filter site:.io.

  •  loom.io – an open-source web application that helps groups make better decisions together
  • revolutionary.io – S-OFF software for phones
  • xray.io – allows you to scan your Android device for security vulnerabilities that put your device at risk
  • action.io – a cloud-based development environment platform with a web-based IDE and cloud VMs, and supports Ruby, Python, Node.js and more
  • avocado,io –  the best way to stay connected with the most important person in your life, for iPhone, Android and the web
  • dillinger.io – a cloud-enabled HTML5 Markdown editor
  • continuum.io – provides software, training, and consulting for high performance computing and data visualization using Python
  • discuss.io – a visual feedback tool for designers
  • spire.io – development APIs for web and mobile
  • risk.io – provides complete vulnerability management by consolidating security information, reporting and management into one place
  • plugg.io – twitter and facebook management tool
  • card.io – credit card scanning for mobile apps
  • push.io – enable smartly-tailored push notifications for all your apps
  • vox.io – make voice and video calls straight from the browser. No installation required
  • engag.io – productivity tool to manage your conversations in social networks and commenting systems
  • bloc.io – online iOS, Rails, and Design Courses
  • elastic.io – provides a graphical way to orhestrate and use online API. No programming require
  • clutch.io – A/B testing for mobile apps
  • dispatch.io – Get real work done. Together. Connect with your team. Discuss your work in Dropbox, Google Docs and Evernot
  • ventures.io – A super early stage startup fund that focuses heavily on its mentorship program

Of the sites I ran across, other consistent themes emerged including several for music (rad.io, wad.io, cant.io, rd.io) as well as in the areas of content publishing, gaming and file sharing.   Personal sites or blogs were few and far between.  I would say no less than 8 in 10, and perhaps as many as 9 in 10 search results returned were for .IO domains belonging to startups in varying stages of development.

Now contrast the above with the following brief list of publicly reported .IO domain sales that have crested the 4-figure mark since 2010 (Source: DNSalePrice.com).

Pay.io – $6,150
Casino.io – $6,300
Food.io – $10,000
Work.io – $4,110
Aud.io – $6,750
Tel.io – $2672
Fol.io – $2,000
Doc.io – $26,500
Soc.io – $3,274
Trade.io – $4,000

One factor at play is the near $100/yr registration fee that has no doubt curbed speculation by domain investors.   Nonetheless, over the span of three years this is a paltry sum of aftermarket sales for any TLD.

So while only a small handful have been willing to cough up the cash for a premium 2nd-level keyword in this alt TLD, the .IO namespace seems to have been attracting budget-conscious tech startups based on domain availability, and perhaps just the right touch of branding – IO can be equated with I/O or Input/Output, nerdspeak for the sending and receiving of signals by information processing systems (aka computers).

Should this tell us something about the prospects for speculating on new gTLDs?  I’m not sure, but with the coming availability of thousands of new TLDs, which if any will end-users actually be willing to pay a premium for on the domain aftermarket?  Or will it be true as seems to be the case with .IO, even after some level of adoption begins to take root, it may be only as a cheap available alternative for the budget-minded end-user.

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