Verisign Hashlinks – a bid to keep domains sexy?

Verisign has quietly announced a new URL shortening service with an interesting spin.

Domain Hashlinks, which The Domains noticed earlier today, is an effort to bring short vanity URLs, with all the associated benefits, to companies’ existing domain names.

A Hashlink looks like this: example.com#hashlink

Notice the absence of a slash.

Hashlinks, which will compete against services such as X.co and Bit.ly, will allow companies to “remain faithful to your brand”, Verisign says.

The service, which is aimed at marketing departments, will have the usual metrics-tracking baggage that we’ve come to expect from URL shorteners.

It can also be plugged into Google Analytics, according to Verisign.

This is not a “registry service” in the sense that it’s running off of the .com registry. That kind of thing requires ICANN approval, but it’s not what Verisign is doing.

It seems that Domain Hashlinks is actually going to be Javascript-driven, meaning it will work regardless of which TLD your site uses. You don’t need to be Verisign to offer this kind of service.

But will anyone use it?

I had to spend a few minutes reading through the service’s web site to convince myself that it wasn’t simply an April Fools’ Day joke I’d missed.

The choice of stock muzak in the pitch vid seems to be comically evocative of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, which screams motifs of youth and change… if you’re in your late 30s or early 40s.

But then I got it.

I can see how Domain Hashlinks would appeal to marketing folks. At least, I can see why Verisign would think it would appeal to marketing folks.

There’s a worry in the domain name industry, which goes right to the top at Verisign, that domain names are becoming less relevant as social media navigation becomes more popular.

You’re now just as likely to see a Twitter hashtag on your TV screen as a domain name.

Domain Hashlinks are a blatant attempt to buy into that buzz and keep domain names relevant in marketing.

I haven’t seen the Javascript yet – it hasn’t been released – but as far as I can tell there’s absolutely no reason the same functionality couldn’t be achieved with the humble slash.

I think Verisign is using the # symbol quite simply because it’s far sexier, as punctuation goes, than /.

The concept is either utter genius (think Justin Bieber planking with a LOLcat) or hopelessly embarrassing (think Verisign veep Pat Kane moshing to Nirvana at a wedding reception).

But that’s for the kids to decide.