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Overstock becomes .co’s anchor tenant from heaven

Overstock.com is to slap its new brand, O.co, on the Oakland Raiders stadium in California, bringing yet more exposure to the .co top-level domain.

The company bought the stadium naming rights back in April, and was pushed into the rebranding now because the sign needs to go up, according to AdAge.

Presumably, whenever American football fans tune into a broadcast or read the sports pages, they’re now going to be exposed to the .co brand.

Not many TLDs have that claim to fame. According to Wikipedia, the only other stadium in the US currently named after a domain is the Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Arizona.

Overstock has been so good for .CO Internet’s marketing, it’s easy to forget that the company actually paid for the domain, splashing out $350,000 a year ago.

I’d hazard a guess that if the registry had known just how prolific the O.co brand would become, it would have given the name away for free.

Currently, the domain o.co redirects to overstock.com, but the site logo refers to “O.co, also known as Overstock.com”.

A million .co domains registered

At some point over the last few weeks the one millionth .co domain was registered, approximately ten months after the domain names became generally available.

That’s pretty good going (better than I expected) when compared to other large-scale TLD launches, such as .mobi, which took almost five years to hit the same milestone.

Registry .CO Internet has been marketing .co domains hard for the last 12 months, particularly in California, where it is focused on attracting Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

To turn the one million milestone into a marketing event, the company has also released some customer endorsement videos at a new site, UnderTheBulb.co (which it’s advertising in my sidebar).

Whether the rapid growth is sustainable is now the question. The one-year anniversary of .co’s launch is coming up in late July, and we might expect a number of early speculative registrations to expire.

But .CO Internet seems confident that it won’t see much of a blip, as its numbers suggest that the vast majority of its registrants – reportedly north of 80% – own fewer than 10 domains each.

Chief executive Juan Calle joked that the company had considered a marketing campaign to coincide with the anniversary, with the slogan “Let ‘Em Drop”, to use a bit of reverse psychology on domainers.

“The registry growing fairly fast,” said Calle. “What happens is that if those domains get dropped they’ll get picked up by real users and businesses.”

The rapid growth is no doubt due in no small part to Go Daddy, which has been prominently featuring .co domains on its front page for months, and to promotional pricing.

Under the current promotion, .CO Internet has roughly halved its registry fee to about $9.50 for first-year registrations, which has translated into $11.99 domains at the checkout.

But Calle said the higher price of .co domains, usually around the $30 mark, does not deter its target customer base, which are business users rather than speculators.

“Pricing is secondary to marketing when it comes to the growth rate — when we do things like the Super Bowl, or when Overstock [which rebranded as o.co] runs their commercials for a week nationally,” he said.

TechCrunch abandons Disrupt.co

TechCrunch seems to have abandoned the .co domain name it acquired with much fanfare last year to promote its Disrupt technology conference.

Disrupt, which kicks off its 2011 show in New York today, was one of the first organizations to obtain a .co domain under .CO Internet’s pre-launch Founders Program.

The conference used the domain to promote its Startup Battlefield competition in May 2010.

But today, just hours before the latest conference begins, disrupt.co still leads to this legacy content. It does not appear to have been updated for the 2011 show.

There was no mention in last year’s announcement of a multi-year commitment to use the domain, so perhaps it was a one-time thing.

The official Disrupt site can be found at disrupt.techcrunch.com.

One-letter domain sales not enough for .co

.CO Internet has added another high-profile customer to its roster of .co domain name registrants with the announcement today that Amazon has purchased four premium names.

Amazon has acquired a.co, k.co, z.co and cloud.co. The deal follows the allocation of t.co and x.co to Twitter and Go Daddy respectively and Overstock.com’s purchase of o.co.

While this is undoubtedly great news for .co’s visibility, it seems to me that .CO Internet is in danger of looking like a one-trick pony due to the brand’s over-reliance on high-profile short domain deals.

If Amazon throws its marketing muscle behind cloud.co, that will prove much more useful in terms of awareness-raising than the allocation of more single-character domains ever will.

It remains to be seen what Amazon plans to do with its three new short .co domains. It would be much more useful for the TLD if they are used for purposes other than URL shorteners.

There are only 36 such domains available. If people only associate .co with short Twitter links, the appeal of the TLD could be checked.

.CO Internet knows this, of course, which is why its marketing strategy from the start has been focused on gaining rank-and-file support from entrepreneurs and web developers.

Right now, I can’t help but feel that the longevity of the .co brand could benefit much more from a successful start-up or two than yet another single-character domain sale.

Prices for the Amazon domains were not disclosed. The four domains combined could feasibly have fetched a seven-figure sum, judging by the $350,000 Overstock paid for o.co.

The registry has also for some months been trying to sell off i.co, and has engaged Sedo as its broker.

.CO to accredit 20 more registrars

Kevin Murphy, April 26, 2011, Domain Registries

.CO Internet is looking for more registrars to start selling .co domain names.

The company has just released a request for proposals, saying it plans to accredit up to 20 new registrars over the next 12 months.

.CO’s registrar channel was limited by its agreement with the Colombian government to 10 registrars in its first year of business – the government had originally wanted only three, to limit gaming – but that restriction no longer applies.

While there are only 10 .co registrars currently, a few of them operate reseller channels or gateways that have enabled unaccredited registrars to also sell the domains, albeit on non-optimal terms.

According to the RFP, .CO is particularly interested in registrars that are willing to promote the .co TLD by either bringing it to new markets or making it the subject of special marketing campaigns.

While .co operates outside of ICANN control, the company is sticking to its policy of only accepting ICANN-accredited registrars into its channel.

Also, only registrars that are already accredited to sell .biz domains (as well as .com and .net) will be able to offer .co, presumably due to the fact that Neustar is the registry provider for both.

This effectively excludes about 115 registrars, many of which are shell or legacy accreditations used for drop-catching.

There are certain unspecified “special considerations” that apply to corporate-focused registrars, according to the RFP, presumably because they tend to be rather low-volume and generally focused on defensive registrations.