Our domain name, ludwig.guru, just rocks and I intimately love it. Nevertheless, the question that we get asked most often (after “Why are you named Ludwig?”) is: “Why’d you choose a ‘.guru’ domain instead of a ‘.com’?” In most cases, this question — or a very similar one — is followed by something like: “I’ve never heard of ‘.guru’ domains before”.
While this domain has become part of our identity and brand, (to the extent that thousands of people call us and search for us on Google with keywords like ‘Ludwig guru’, ‘Ludwig the guru’, ‘Ludwig guru of English’) back in 2014, when we picked it, a .guru domain didn’t seem like the most obvious choice.
The “.com” fever
I clearly remember that while I was a researcher at MIT (in 2014) and attended a course on Media Ventures taught by Joost Bonsen, he suggested to everyone in our class to buy a ‘.com’ domain for our ideas or to “dotcomize” — a very self-explanatory neologism — any other domain, if we already had one.
If back in 2014 ludwig.com had been free, my Ludwig team and I would have probably bought it without thinking twice about it, and today we wouldn’t be ludwig.guru.
The problem is that fortunately or unfortunately — depending on your point of view — there are already almost 2 billion websites (as of December 2018, but this number is constantly growing) and 330+ million domains in the world. Out of this huge number, approximately 50% are ‘.com’.
The difference with other domains is huge, if you think that the second most common domain is ‘.ru’ which accounts for 5% only. The feeling of a predominance of ‘.com’ sites is even stronger if you consider that the top 1 million websites total more than 50% of the entire web traffic and that 80% of that top 1 million has a ‘.com’ domain. The internet map below represents the sizes of websites according to their traffic: very few ‘.com’ sites monopolize most of the traffic and another billion (the small planets and the stardust of the picture below) are also mostly ‘.com’. The only ‘non-.com’ in the top 5 is Wikipedia.org.
Source: The Internet Map
Being numerically overwhelming and driving most of the web traffic, it is no surprise that ‘.com’ domains are widely perceived as the internet standard. As a consequence, no matter what nice name your creative mind may come up with, it will already be taken. If your name happens to be a given name, like Ludwig, checking whether it’s free is a waste of time in 99.9% of the cases. We decided that, no matter what, our name would be only Ludwig and that we would sacrifice the ‘.com’ for it.
The ICANN on the rescue
Back in the 2000s, there were very few choices for domain endings. Nerds call these domains gTLDs if they are generic top-level domains (like: ‘.com’, ‘.org’, and ‘.net’) and ccTLD, i.e. country-code top-level domains (such as: .it., .es, .de, .us, .vn, and hundreds more). For Ludwig, we wanted a cool gTLD, but we wanted to avoid an ‘.org’, which is good if you are running a non-profit organization, and a ‘.net’, which totally make you sounds like “I didn’t get the ‘.com’, so I went for the second choice”.
Now, as some of you may know, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the organization that coordinates the creation and maintenance of the namespaces of the whole Internet. At some point, ICANN understood that finding a free ‘.com’ name with less than 100 syllables was as difficult as finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. In 2013 they finally decided to release a bunch of new domain endings, among which ‘.guru’, ‘.ninja’, and ‘.dentist’. While these new gTLDs opened up the possibility of creating new creative and distinctive domain names for any business, they still sounded unfamiliar to many who were used to typing in ‘.com’ by default.
Our goal was to come up with something memorable that would match well with the name Ludwig and that would help us stand out by being unique. Getting a weird gTLD was a risk that we had to take. If we had opened an Italian Pizzeria in New York we could have gone for the ‘.pizza’ domain (yes, it exists) and we would have been simply ludwig.pizza instead of ludwigpizza.com. Unfortunately, our case wasn’t that easy: we needed a TLD related to trust, to the English language, to writing and to the personal name Ludwig, all at the same time.
We had to dig quite a bit into that endless list to find the gTLD of our dreams: with so many options the choice was tough. We finally decided to go for the ‘.guru’ for some valid reasons:
- The whole domain name ludwig.guru is catchy and easy to remember
- Sounds well with Ludwig
- Contributes to the ideal personalization of the name
- Being a guru, a spiritual advisor or mentor figure, it inspires trust
- Giving Ludwig the title of ‘.guru’, added a touch of irony without making it sound ridiculous
- The ‘.guru’ adds some branding value that other domains don’t provide
- Last but not least, it was available when we tried to buy it!
It’s a long way to the top (if you wanna rock’n’roll)
Our users like and remember our name and we couldn’t be happier with our choice. A lot of people (especially investors and web gurus) said that our domain could impact negatively on SEO, Google ranking, and traffic. First off, Google stated that all gTLDs are equals and picking a new gTLD won’t have any impact on search engine ranking, neither positively nor negatively. In 2014, all we could do was take Google’s word for it and experience it first hand. Today we can state that Google told the truth: having a ‘.guru’ has no negative effect whatsoever on ranking or traffic. In fact, in 2018, we brought 8 million unique users from 200 countries on Ludwig.guru. Ludwig is currently at position 19k on The Alexa Rank (as of November 2018). We can definitely shoot for making Ludwig the first ‘.guru’ website among the giants of the web. I know, it’s a long way to the top but we will keep rocking until we make it.