Why Are .io Domains So Expensive? (Top 3 Reasons + 2 Cons)

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Today’s businesses, organizations, and individuals have expansive options when choosing a domain name for their website. Internet domain extensions or top-level domains (TLDs) can be almost anything, from the globally recognized .com and .net to the geographically specific codes, known as country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), such as .us and .uk.

The extension .io is a ccTLD assigned to British Indian Ocean Territory. This domain is well-loved by the tech industry and often costs more than three times more than other domains. So why are .io domains so expensive?

.io domains are expensive because they quickly became trendy with tech startups due to their similarity with information processing, in tech circles, “I/O” stands for input/output. Another reason is that millions of .com domains are already taken, but corresponding .io domains are still available.

I did some research to find out if it was really that simple. Would people pay extra for a domain because it has cachet in their industry?

Here’s what I found…

Top 3 Reasons Why .io Domains Are So Expensive

Securing a domain name is one of the first steps in planning a business. You can’t do business online without a domain. And if you’re a tech or computer-based business, you might want to use the .io domain because it has cachet in your industry.

After all, if there is a place a tech-related business might want to look good, it’s online.

While the .io extension isn’t exponentially more expensive than the more pedestrian .com or .net, it can have an annual cost of at least triple that of other domains.

I made a quick comparison by looking for domains on a popular domain registration site…

Price comparison of an available domain name with different TLDs:


So why do .io domains cost so much?

Reason 1: Tech Industry Loves .io Domains!

As I mentioned above, .io is attractive to techies because I/O stands for “Input/Output.” And, as simply put by techterms.com, “Computers are based on the fundamental idea that every input results in an output.”

The computer’s components relate to input-output, such as keyboard-monitor. Computer processing is input-output: data in-results out. Or, a user enters a command (the input), and the computer performs a task (the output).

So, as you can see, the “I” and the “O” really mean something on a fundamental level to those who work closely with technology.

If I were starting a new tech-related company, I might choose to spring for the extra cost to have a domain that reflects my industry. At once, it shows the world “I am too savvy to settle for .com,” while connecting the company to others in the startup community using the domain.

It’s a brand identifier and establishes a company as part of a scene. And companies will pay for that.

Further Reading: How To Make A Professional WordPress Website For An IT Company

Reason 2: Hundreds of Millions of .com Domains Are Already Taken!

According to Government Computer News (GCN.com), the first domain name ever sold was Symbolics.com in 1985. Seven years later, there were less than 15,000 .com domains sold. By the beginning of 2011, there were 205.3 million.

Today, according to Internet Live Stats, there are over 1.7 billion registered websites in total. 43% of them, or 731 million of them, end in .com.

Special Note: If you are wondering how to register a domain name, then here’s a complete step-by-step tutorial on registering a domain name. Also, here’s another interesting article, Are Domain Names Case Sensitive? Answer Is Yes And No – Here’s Why.

It’s easy to see how difficult it might be for a company today to get its first choice domain name. When an individual or business finds itself in this common predicament, Google counsels them “…to simply change the ending. The most used domain ending or TLD (“top-level domain”) is .com, but there are now a variety of TLDs, ranging from .academy to .coffee to .zone.”

The domain .io might be an appealing option to a company for its sheer accessibility. And if the company also happens to be in a tech-, IT-, or computer-related field, it’s win-win.

This is why a domain registry can charge more for having the inventory that more generic, top-level domains don’t have.

Reason 3: It Looks Clean and Sounds Cool…and Can Be Memorable Too!

Aesthetics won’t matter to every business. But if you’re in a digital or web design field, or have a cutting-edge software company, then the way you look onscreen is a big deal.

I can’t deny that “.io” looks “new” and “edgy” compared to the ancient “.com.” That means everything to a techie.

Besides, it may not be worth the extra spend to everyone, but it is a lot more fun to say: “aye, oh” than “dotcom.” But, perhaps most importantly, getting that name you want, with a short, snappy extension is worth paying for.


Are There Cons To Buying A .io Domain?

As with anything new and trendy, what may serve you in the short run may not be suitable for the bigger picture. As a business owner, you must decide if .io will offer the longevity you need to match your business.

Con 1: All that Glitters is Not Gold!

While trendiness is certainly a trademark of the tech startup field, there is no denying that an ancient fixture like .com has some favorable cachet as well.

Forbes.com advises: “.com should always be your first choice whenever possible, particularly if you’re planning to go big, nationwide, or international with your new brand.”

Why? Because it’s worth paying attention to anything that’s been around the internet for as long as the internet itself. While you may not be able to get your first choice domain name, it might still be worth brainstorming to find a .com.

Recommended Further Reading:

Con 2: Confusing To Customers?

Let’s face it: customers know .com. It’s practically a proprietary eponym or a brand that starts to replace the generic name of an item in a market. When someone says, “I need a .com,” we immediately know what they are talking about.

Likewise, if someone’s business name is The Curious Writer, for instance, we’ll assume the website for that business will be found at thecuriouswriter.com.

New domains and ccTLDs are a stretch for the average consumer or internet user. While .io might associate your business with “all things tech” and other techies, it may be aliening to anyone who isn’t in the know.

Also, you may end up spending additional marketing dollars upfront to get the message across. A message that is basically saying “we’re not a .com.”

Lastly, some standard online forms might use dropdown menus with the big-player top-level domains, such as .com and the major alternatives, such as .org, .net, .edu, .gov, etc.

If I Really Want A .com That is Taken, Are There Ways to Get It?

I did some additional research to find out how a company might get that .com they’ve always dreamed of. Unless the domain you want belongs to a multinational corporation, the right price might just make that URL yours.

Here are some ways to try and buy a .com domain that you want…

1. Try To Buy It From The Current Owner

Almost every domain registrar has instructions for how to go after a domain name that is already taken.

GoDaddy’s article “4 Steps to Your Dream Domain” has some great tips, and I’ll share some of those steps here.

  • Find out who owns the domain. This isn’t too difficult, it turns out. Websites like whois.net can help find the owner of the domain you want.
  • Often, the website registrar search will also include a “Make an Offer” button that starts the process of trying to make a deal.
  • If you don’t have the time – or the confidence – to make the call, you can work with the domain registrar of your choice to secure your domain.

Depending on who owns the domain, whether they’re still in business and any other factors, purchasing a domain name on the secondary market can cost you a lot.

2. Check Online For Resale Domains List

Many domain registrars have a list of recently and not-so-recently inactive domains that are available for purchase through their websites.

If you still don’t find what you want, the sites commonly recommend similar domains, and one might just appeal to you.

3. Find A Registrar That Places Backorders

This is just what it sounds like!

Some domain registrars will keep an open alert for you if they know what you are looking for.

You can enter specific names or keywords, and you’ll receive an email letting you know if something comes up that matches your search.


.io Is Still A Great Option for Many!

With the generic top-level domains being nearly exhausted for names and words many businesses are looking for, choosing an alternative TLD can be a solid strategy.

While the yearly cost may be a little more than settling for a .com, a .io domain can help kickstart your branding.

You may have to put more efforts and resources into initial marketing to get your domain name out there. But many companies have already found it worthwhile to take this bold, new step into a non-traditional territory.

So will you consider getting a .io domain? Let me know in the comments below.

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2 thoughts on “Why Are .io Domains So Expensive? (Top 3 Reasons + 2 Cons)”

  1. Hi I am planning to built a portal for reviewing and tutorials for the themes, plugins, softwares etc.
    So will .io will be good option for it or not. Beacuse I have searched domain.com and that domain is very expensive premium cost is around 75,000 INR.
    And I want that domain only but for .com cannot afford that much.
    For .io can afford but have doubt on it that It could be catchy or not and will good for Google ranking or not.
    Please help me out.
    Thank you.

    1. I think you can go for .io domain provided the .com is not registered by someone else already and there are no trademarks associated with the domain name. Using .io should not have much impact on the Google rankings. Usually it is the domain name that can be problematic from trademark perspective than the actual domain extension. For example, wpbeginner.com is a well known brand in WordPress ecosystem. So trying to register wpbeginner.io is not a good idea because those guys can come after you as your domain name could be a trademark violation for them as well as it can confuse their potential customers/visitors.

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