Com vs Co Domain Comparison

Mushfiqur Sarker

There are an incredible number of TLD extensions out there. As of April 2021 there are 1,502 TLD out there according to Wikipedia. That is a lot of options for domain names, but in reality, a very small number that are in demand. Both .com and .co are extremely popular TLD extensions, but is one better than the other?

While .com is the standard, is there a reason why a .co might be the better option for some investors? 

Let’s dive in comparing the pros/cons of both and take a look at what a deep dive will tell us.


The Origin of Co vs Com Domain Extensions

The first .com was claimed on March 15, 1985 (source). The site, symbolics.com, is still in existence although it has changed dramatically to recognize its place in Internet history. That makes the use of .com extensions over 35 years old and counting. 

Which makes .com even older than the publicly open Internet, which points to 1991 as the big year it came out. Since .gov and .edu were for specific organizations, .com emerged relatively quickly as one of the standard domain extensions people focused on.

In retrospect it’s easy to see why .com became the standard. As the Internet was growing publicly in the mid-1990s there were only seven TLDs (source). The only TLDs open to anyone from those seven were .com, .org, and .net.

Since most people weren’t organizations or networks, .com became the default that everyone goes by even today.

The origin of .co comes from 2010, and it’s not what most people think it is. Many people assume .co means company or corporation. That is how it is widely used/viewed online, but it actually stands for Colombia.

When the national TLD extensions were rolled out, Colombia’s was .co. This was similar to .com and since .co could easily be branded as “company” or “corporation,” when Colombia made it an open TLD (in other words, you didn’t have to be a resident to own a .co domain) it rose very quickly in popularity.

The data from studies of VC-backed startups’ domain preferences confirms that .co remains one of the most popular alternatives to .com when the ideal name is not available in .com form.


What Is The Difference Between .com and .co? 

Both TLD extensions are acceptable. They are both available to the public, and can be used for the same type of sites.

The .com TLD is seen as the standard. The .co TLD is mainstream enough that it is one of the main alternatives to .com.

So what are the actual differences between the two?

  • .com is an open TLD while .co is country-based (though still open)
  • .com was founded 1985, .co in 2010
  • .com is seen as the clear standard
  • .co has taken on the company/corporate vibe that .com was originally expected to be

While these domain extensions are very similar in appearance and use, there are some key differences that need to be noted when making a decision on domain name.


5 Factors Involved in Deciding Com vs Co

If .com is the standard, then why are .co domain names so popular? Depending on the situation, there are several factors that can make the .co a better choice than the .com.

1. Availability

Since .com is the standard TLD, it is the version of any given domain name that will almost always be in the highest demand. This means as a general rule of thumb the .com of any given domain name will be the hardest to get, and the most expensive if it’s being sold as a premium domain.

Many good domain names that are completely unavailable as a .com will be available as a .co. As long as a trademark isn’t involved, that can be a great way to get a domain name that would be perfect for a new business.

2. Pricing

The base price for a .com or .co domain name will generally be about the same if that domain name has never been used before. Really popular or potentially popular domain names could have thousands of dollars of difference between a .com version and a .co version.

There are times when an expensive .com domain name could have a .co that is selling for the basi $10-20.

For tight budgets, or when running into overpriced .com domain names, the pricing factor could be a major reason to look at a domain name with a .co TLD.

3. SEO

Directly there is no difference in SEO between a .com or a .co TLD. Some make the argument that not having a .com can inadvertently hurt SEO because it makes it harder to get good backlinks to a TLD that isn’t seen as standard or professional.

While there might be a little bit of truth to this, the .co is widely accepted enough that it shouldn’t have this problem. 

The only potential issue could be a “mis-linking” where a blog hosting a guest post links to the .com instead of the .co that you own.

4. Trust 

There’s no denying that .com is the most trusted publicly available TLD. That is one of the factors for why .com domain names are so popular and in high demand. Because they can be trusted.

While some people view a .co as being a little less trustworthy, they are still one of the most accepted outside of .com. They are common enough and used by enough large companies or sites that people are used to seeing them.

While there’s slightly more trust for a .com, if you need to settle on an alternative .co should be right up there among the best options.

5. Branding

Branding is crucial. The .com as the standard is almost always going to be the best option. If the .co is the best alternative available, then it’s important to emphasize that “dot C O” in marketing to make sure anyone linking to your site isn’t linking to the wrong domain name.

Generally speaking .co is widely enough recognized as a TLD that branding with one of these names should not be a problem.

A very good domain name with a .co might be a better choice than just an okay domain name that is a .com.


Best Alternatives When .com Is Taken

Based on extensive studies I’ve done on the extensions that venture capital-backed startups purchase, I can say with confidence that the TLD extensions that are highest in demand after .com are .co, .io, and .ai.

For most years from 2015 through 2021 .co and .io were roughly equal in popularity taking the next spot behind .com. The chart below summarizes the top 20 common TLDs. 

Neither one individually, or even with them combined, came close to the popularity of the .com version of any given domain name when it was available. 

top 20 common tlds 3

If a viable .io or .co isn’t available then turning to .ai has potential. The .ai TLD extension is the one getting the most attention.

Don’t go with .net or .org if there are other options. These were seen as the .com alternatives years ago in part because there were so few other options. Neither of those are comparable to .co, .io, or .ai at this point. 


Open Questions

There are a few major questions that come up frequently when it comes to looking at these TLD options.

What does a .co mean? 

Officially .co stands for Colombia. These are a national based TLD, although unlike some other strict nation-based TLDs (like .uk or .ca), .co are open to people who are not residents of the country. 

This has led to many people believing that the .co extensions stands for “company.” This is one of the most popular TLD options out there outside of the standard .com.

In fact, among venture capital backed startups .co is one of the most popular extensions for domains. The fact .co is widely recognized, and similar to .com, makes it fairly popular as a choice for startups and other companies.

What does a .com mean? 

The .com extension is short for “commercial.” This was meant to indicate a website that was or at least could be built for business or monetary means. Over time it simply became seen as the standard TLD, though technically .com = commercial.

Why is .com more expensive? 

Since the earliest days of the internet, .com quickly became the “default” TLD extension. So while there would be sites that use .net, .org, or official ones like .gov and .edu, there’s little question that .com is seen as the standard.

They are seen as the most professional, and many people assume they are the “default” TLD of a website. This makes them more brandable. That means they are in the highest demand, and higher demand means higher prices.


Will You Choose a Com or a Co Domain?

Both of these TLD extensions can do very well. I prefer the .com when it is available and priced within reason because it is the standard and the most widely recognized. That said, when the name I’m set on is just unavailable or too expensive to be worth the investment, I’ll start looking to see what .co options are available.

These are both good options, and while it’s not likely any TLD is ever going to dethrone .com, .co is one of the best alternatives available out there.



Mushfiqur Sarker

Analyzed by Mushfiq Sarker

Mushfiq has been buying, growing, and selling website assets since 2008. His first exit was in 2010. Since then, he has done 215+ website flips with multiple 6-figure exits. Learn more about Mushfiq.


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