Data Driven: Top 5 Alternatives to .COM

If the .COM for your brand isn’t available either due to the name being out of your price range, or the name has been developed, which alternative domain extension do you use? 

Here, I’m going to look at data from more than 60,000 startups founded between 2015 and 2020 to determine which extensions are the accepted top five alternatives to a .COM. 

The dataset is from 63,455 companies listed on Crunchbase. I’ve collated the data so you don’t have to. 

The attraction of an alternative extension is that you stand more chance of getting higher quality left-of-the-dot. 



The .IO extension is the top alternative to .COM, according to these statistics, with 6.87% of startups using .IO between 2015 and 2020. The Indian Ocean ccTLD has been repurposed and is now a very cool .COM alternative, especially in the cryptocurrency, tech, and gambling industries. 

Will that trend continue? The popularity of .IO has remained steady between 2017 and 2020, with around 7.5% of startups founded between 2017 and 2020 using .IO. With Donuts Inc’s recent acquisition of the .IO registry, will renewal prices and registry premiums increase to a point where .IO isn’t viable as an alternative? 

At the moment, there’s little sign of the .IO momentum slowing.



This is the closest in form to .COM but despite the possible confusion between .COM and .CO, this extension is still one of the top alternatives, with 4.53% of companies opting for .CO initially. 

In some cases, .CO is seen as a stepping stone for a later upgrade to the .COM once the company has more funding and a proof of concept. 

The adoption rate for .CO among startups has been fairly consistent, with popularity constantly hovering around the 4.5% range between 2015 and 2020.



In third place is .AI. The ccTLD for Anguilla has been adopted by those developing artificial intelligence solutions in particular. Overall, 2.52% of companies in my dataset are listed as using a .AI domain name.

Over time, the popularity of .AI seems to have reduced somewhat, with my data showing that popularity dipped from 2.85% in 2019 to just 1.31% in 2020. At the time of writing, the typical registration and renewal fees for .AI are higher than both .CO and .IO. Perhaps that’s the reason for the declining popularity?



The ccTLD for India is in fourth place, with the extension being used by Indian and global startups alike. The statistics for .IN incorporate both of .CO.IN and .IN, with global startups more likely to use .IN. Although, .CO.IN could by used in the cryptocurrency industry as a hack for “coin.”

Between 2015 and 2020, the average popularity of the .IN extension is 2.29%. Between 2018 and 2020, the extension has become more popular, with adoption increasing from 2.06% in 2018 to 3% in 2020.



In an age where hundreds of new domain extensions such as .APP and .DEV exist, it’s surprising to see that .NET still has some usage. Yes, in fifth place is one of the OGs of the domain world, .NET.

With a 1.47% adoption rate between 2015 and 2020, it proves that .NET is still one of the top alternatives to a .COM among startups.


The Rest

Interested in knowing what makes up the top twenty alternatives to .COM? Here’s the list.

Top 20 TLDs

wdt_ID TLD Count
2 com 39192
3 io 4364
4 co 2878
5 ai 1601
6 in 1456
7 net 936
8 uk 795
9 org 767
10 jp 759
11 app 515
TLD Count

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