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.Com vs .Net: An Expert Guide to Choosing the Right Domain Extension for Your Website

Choosing the perfect domain name is a crucial early step in establishing your online identity. Your domain acts like a virtual storefront, and just like a physical store location, it can influence how people perceive your brand and whether they trust you enough to visit.

One of the first choices you‘ll face when registering a domain is which top-level domain, or TLD, to use. With over 1,500 TLDs now available, the selection can feel overwhelming. But for most website owners, the decision still typically comes down to two of the most popular and recognizable options: .com vs .net.

To help you make an informed decision, we‘ll dive into the key differences between .com and .net, exploring their history, perception, availability, and more. By the end of this guide, you‘ll have a clear understanding of which one is the best fit for your website goals.

The History and Evolution of .Com and .Net

The .com and .net TLDs have been around for a long time in internet years. They were two of the original seven top-level domains, along with .edu, .gov, .mil, .org, and .int, introduced back in January 1985.

At the time, the intention was for .com to be used by commercial entities, while .net was designated for organizations involved in network infrastructure. As the internet grew, however, these distinctions became less strictly enforced. While .com has remained the most popular choice for businesses, .net has evolved into a more general-purpose alternative.

Here‘s a quick timeline of some key milestones in the history of .com and .net:

  • 1985: .com and .net created as two of the original TLDs
  • 1992: The World Wide Web is born, and the first .com domain ( is registered
  • 1995: NSFNet shuts down, allowing the internet to transition to a commercial model
  • 1997: The domain name market is deregulated, allowing more registrars to start selling domains
  • 1998: The number of registered .com domains surpasses 1 million for the first time
  • 2000: Verisign acquires Network Solutions for $21 billion, largely for its portfolio of .com and .net domains
  • 2010: ICANN approves the .co TLD, which becomes a popular alternative to .com
  • 2012: ICANN begins accepting applications for new generic TLDs beyond .com and .net
  • 2021: The total number of registered domain names across all TLDs exceeds 363 million

Throughout all this change and growth, .com has remained the dominant force. As of February 2021, according to DomainTools, the top 5 most registered TLDs were:

TLD Number of Domains Share of All Domains
.com 148.7 million 40.7%
.tk 25.1 million 6.9%
.cn 14.7 million 3.6%
.net 13.4 million 3.6%
.org 10.5 million 2.9%

While .net maintains a respectable fourth place, .com is in another league entirely. The .com TLD accounts for over 7 times as many domains as .net.

The Pros and Cons of .Com and .Net

So why exactly has .com become so much more prevalent than .net? Let‘s examine the advantages and disadvantages of each in depth.

Authority and Trust

One of the biggest reasons .com remains the go-to TLD is its credibility. As the first and most recognized domain extension, .com has built up a strong reputation as the standard for legitimate, professional websites.

This ingrained trust in .com domains can directly impact user behavior. A survey conducted by Growth Badger found that 65% of respondents prefer to click on a .com domain in search results vs only 2.8% for .net.

The perceived authority of .com is especially important in ecommerce, where establishing trust is critical for driving sales. As Will Cannon, CEO of UpLead, explains:

"Using a .com domain lends more credibility in general, but it‘s essential for ecommerce websites. People are more comfortable sharing payment information on a .com website because it feels more legitimate and secure compared to lesser-known TLDs."

While .net domains can certainly still be authoritative, they may need to work harder to prove their trustworthiness compared to a .com.

Memorability and Branding

Another key advantage of .com is its memorability. Since .com is so ubiquitous, people often automatically assume a URL ends in .com when trying to recall it.

Research by Growth Badger found that when asked to remember a URL several days after seeing it, respondents were 3.8x more likely to correctly recall a .com domain compared to a .net domain.

Additionally, .com domains tend to be seen as more brandable. Many of the most recognizable brands in the world use .com, which has helped cement its position as the most premium domain extension.

However, some companies have managed to turn .net into a clever branding asset. For example, the fishing equipment retailer uses a playful slogan of "Gear for the Angler in You" that incorporates its TLD.

Availability and Cost

When it comes to finding an available domain name, .net has an advantage over .com. Because .com is so popular, many short, memorable .com domains have long been claimed. In contrast, it‘s often easier to find a desirable .net domain that hasn‘t been taken yet.

This availability impacts cost as well. While the base registration fees for .com and .net are similar, high-value .com domains can resell for much more due to the laws of supply and demand.

For example, according to DNJournal, some of the highest .com domain sales in 2020 included:

  • for $30 million
  • for $2.89 million
  • for $2 million
  • for $1.85 million
  • for $1.8 million

The most expensive .net sale,, was acquired for $190,000. While still a hefty sum, it pales in comparison to the top .com sales.

So if budget is a major factor and your ideal .com domain is already taken, .net can be a more affordable alternative. But keep in mind that a challenging-to-remember .net domain will likely still perform worse than an brandable .com domain, even if the .com costs more upfront.

The Impact of New TLDs on .Com and .Net

Since 2013, ICANN has approved over 1,200 new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). Some of these new extensions like .io, .co, .ai, and .app have gained popularity as trendy alternatives to .com for tech startups and mobile apps.

But while the number of registered domains for these new TLDs has been steadily rising, .com and .net have continued to maintain their dominance. In fact, the explosive growth of all these alternatives has arguably made the stability and longevity of .com and .net even more valuable.

According to a 2020 domain industry report by Verisign, even in the face of increased competition, .com and .net registrations have grown year-over-year:

  • Total .com domain registrations increased by 4.4% from Q1 2019 to Q1 2020
  • Total .net domain registrations increased by 2.6% from Q1 2019 to Q1 2020
  • The renewal rate for .com domains was 74.8% in Q1 2020, and 73.8% for .net domains

Matthew Barrette, Director of Domain Services at GoDaddy, explained in an interview:

"We‘ve seen some impressive growth among the new gTLDs, but uptake is still a fraction of .com. There‘s a lot of confusion and a lack of awareness about the new TLDs, while .com is universally understood."

Rather than rendering them obsolete, the expanding domain landscape has spotlighted the trusty versatility of .com and .net. Even the trendiest new TLD is unlikely to be as intuitive and widely recognized as these legacy extensions any time soon.

How to Choose Between .Com and .Net

So when it comes down to it, should you choose .com or .net for your website? While .com is the safe choice in most cases, there are some scenarios where .net can make sense.

Consider going with .com if:

  • You‘re a for-profit business (especially in ecommerce)
  • Your goal is to maximize credibility and memorability
  • Your desired .com domain is available at a reasonable price
  • You want the most universal, future-proof TLD as you grow

Consider using .net if:

  • Your website is tech-focused (like network infrastructure or web services)
  • Your ideal .com name is taken but the .net version is available
  • You‘re open to a longer, less brandable domain to save money on registration fees
  • You want to make a clever branding play on the "net" aspect

If you‘re still unsure, here‘s a simple litmus test. Ask yourself: Will I need to put extra effort into explaining and justifying my .net domain? If you‘re constantly saying things like "No, not .com, .NET," or "It ends in .net because the .com was taken," you might be working against people‘s expectations in a way that could chip away at your credibility.

When in doubt, .com is typically the path of least resistance. It‘s the safest bet for earning instant recognition and trust. According to Alan Dunn, founder of the domain brokerage service NameCorp:

"If you‘re trying to build a brand or business, you‘re doing yourself a disservice by not using .com. All things being equal, .com is still the best option as people naturally default to it."

Key Takeaways and Final Tips for Choosing a Domain Name

Choosing the right domain is an important step, but it‘s just one of many factors that influence your website‘s success. While .com is usually the optimal TLD thanks to its unmatched authority and brand power, a strong .net domain can still be effective if the name is memorable and the content is valuable.

Here are some final tips to keep in mind when registering your domain, regardless of which TLD you choose:

  • Keep it concise. Aim for 1-3 words and under 15 characters total.
  • Make it easy to spell and pronounce. Avoid words that are commonly misspelled or tough to say out loud.
  • Use keywords when relevant. If your domain features words people search for, it could offer an SEO boost.
  • Target your area. If you‘re a local business, consider including your city or country code in your domain.
  • Protect your brand. Register multiple TLD variations of your name to keep others from using them.
  • Think long-term. Choose a domain you can grow into, not one you‘ll quickly outgrow.

By understanding the nuances of .com vs .net and following these criteria, you can secure a domain that will serve your website well both now and in the future, regardless of which TLD you choose. While it‘s far from the only ingredient in your online success recipe, a strong domain name is definitely a key flavor enhancer.