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The World's Shortest Domain Names: How To Get a One Character Domain

(01/12/2014 9:21 pm)

Christopher Hofman Laursen
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One of the biggest domain sales ever was the recent 2014 sale of z.com from Nissan to GMO Internet. GMO paid a cool USD 6.8m for one of only three existing one letter .com domains.

Source: https://www.gmo.jp/en/news/article/?id=636

"Manhattan real estate"

The sale of z.com didn't kickstart the inspiration to this post, however it's a fine example of a business seeing the potential in one of the world's shortest domain names.

The real reason why I wrote this post is because of AFNIC's release of one character domain names from 8th Dec. If interested in .fr domains you should read this post, where I reveal, how you can get a single letter .fr domain.

One character domain names contain only one single letter or a single number such as t.co or 3.dk. They are considered the "Manhattan real estate" of the internet. We are talking about some of the most valuable web addresses. Many global brands drool to get their hands on a one letter domain name as their digital identity. Would American Express prefer a.com to americanexpress.com? Would Panasonic give their right arm for p.com? Hell, yeah!

Background

Historically, no registry started out allowing one character domain names. Over the years though a handful of registries have allowed these registrations. I believe that more will come, since registries will search for new channels of revenue in a saturated market. Some have launched them very professionally, while others have failed miserably. AFNIC is a fine recent example of a professional registry launching in three phases, where right holders have first priority. On the other hand an example of amateurism is .gl, where Hong Kong based Dan Tan ended up owning all Greenland's single letter .gl domains (except c.gl). How on earth did that happen?

Most 1 character domains are country code top level domains - very few generic ones. .biz and .asia have opened up, however there are very few active one character domains for the "Big three" classics .com, .org and .net. Until 1993 it was possible to get a single character domain for .com, .net and .org. IANA stopped this practice, so only a couple are active today, and they are worth mucho dinero: i.net q.com q.net x.com x.org z.com and w.org.

Which top level domains offer one character domains?

The following top level domains (and their second level domains - e.g. .pl and com.pl) have at some point opened up for one character domain names. I recommend that you use the registries' own WHOIS function to check the status. You can find the registry websites here:

.ac .af .ag .ai .am .asia .biz .bo .by .bz .cm .cn .co .com.ar .com.br .co.at .co.il .co.uk .cr .cz .cx .dj .de .dk .fm .gd .gg .gl .gp .gs .gt .gy .hn .ht .im .io .je .kg .ki .kw .la .lb .lc .ly .md .mk .mp .ms .mw .mx .mu .nf .nz .pe .ph .pk .pl .pn .pw .ro .sh .st .tc .tl .tt .to .tv .travel .ua .ws .vc .vg .vn .vu

Lately we have also seen some single letter domain names for a number of new generic top level domains such as .cheap, .exposed, .ventures, .archi, .ventures, .holdings, .builders, .boutique, .dating, .watch, .directory, .technology and .engineering.

"Sounds good. I want a one"

Before you get too enthusiastic though about your future one character domain name, then let me tell you that ALL are either taken or being sold at a premium price by the registries. Most of them are owned by savvy domain resellers, but this is surely an advantage for you, since they would be willing to sell if the price is right.

But the bottom line is that you need to be either street smart or have a serious budget to get a one character domain name.

Basically there are four options :

1) Buy the domain name in the aftermarket

Check the domain market places for one character domain names. SEDO does have one character domain names for sale. Insert any one character in their search field and click search to see the shortest domain names available. Be aware though that domains sold as premium domains by the Registries will appear with status "Already registered", which is not correct.

2) Apply when a registry opens up for one character domains

Each registry have their own rule set when releasing one character domain names. This means that you will have an edge, if you analyze their rule set closely. I went through AFNIC's 15 page rule set (in French!) and found one interesting option, which you can read more about here. By the way a great way to prepare for future launches is by securing one character trademarks, so you will be able to participate in an eventual initial phase for trademark holders.

3) Negotiate with the registry

Money talks. While not officially for sale some registries will surely be interested in striking a deal, if the price is right. Others offer one character domain names at a premium price such as the .ME registry.

4) Initiate a domain dispute

This one is on an advanced level and highly unethical in my book. I have decided to include it though, since someone in my circle lost a domain name due to this strategy. If the dispute system is broken, then it could be useful. When the current registrant doesn't use the domain name (claim warehousing) or use it wrongly (claim trademark infringement), then you team up with a matching trademark owner and prepare a domain dispute claiming your rights to the domain name. If the trademark owner doesn't use the trademark anymore, you can also acquire the trademark from them.

Conclusion

One character domain names are fantastic for branding and can be a very valuable asset. It's not easy to get a one character domain name, however there are ways. Above I have listed the registries which offer one character domain names, and I have given you four strategies to get one of the world's shortest domain names.

Your next chance to get a one character domain name is when AFNIC opens up for one character (and two characters) .fr domains from 8th December. If you want to know more about your options, then contact me at christopher@europeandomaincentre.com.

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