First, there was Bit.ly. Everyone knows this marine-themed site for being a popular URL shortener with a unique address ending, “ly.” The memorable and catchy suffix, semi-coincidentally mirroring the English adverbial ending, helped catapult Bit.ly into the public awareness. It soon became the unofficial default URL shortener. Then, suddenly, came the flood of .ly.
Bit.ly, Ow.ly, Good.ly, Adf.ly, Visual.ly, Insight.ly, Time.ly, Img.ly. The list of companies using what is actually Libya’s country code goes on and on. Most of these sites don’t even belong to Libya itself – most are in fact US-based small companies providing business services and products. However, these trendy American businesses dominate the top sites with a .ly domain, with Libya’s official government website not even ranking in the top fifty.
What made the .ly ending so sought-after? It could just be the fact that it’s not what we’re used to. Or it may be the “modern” connotation and euphonious effect it has on the brand name. It’s like an instant brand freshener with a splash of cute. Without the .ly, Bit.ly would just be “Bit” and Hootsuite’s Ow.ly would be “Ow.” That’s not cute or catchy (though I would argue “Ow” is pretty memorable).
From this, we can safely say that part of these brands’ images is the .ly, and they wouldn’t be themselves without it. Bit.ly certainly uses their domain name for increasing brand awareness at a level deeper than simply using it as a name. For a lot of these sites, it’s a branding tactic to help establish their identity in the minds of consumers.
However, one has to consider the dangers of hosting sites – resting your website’s dependability and therefore your brand’s reputation – outside the country. This is especially worrisome not only because of war in Libya, but because of the numerous restrictions Libya’s government imposes on the content they will allow to be hosted. For instance, there is to be no criticism of the Libyan government, no adult content, no gambling, no indecency or obscenity, no promotion of “immoral” behavior, and websites must conform to Islamic law.
Though Bit.ly is relatively safe because it doesn’t host content but rather creates shortened links to content on other websites, this raises the question of the tradeoff between increasing brand awareness with a cutesy trick like domain hacking and your company’s own stability. Libya has shut down services before – including a link-shortening service – that it felt were against “Sharia law.”
Where your company’s long-term survivability is concerned, is it wise to center such a large part of your brand’s image on something so unstable? Though a unique domain ending conveys a sense of trendiness and modernity, it isn’t worth it if the company is shut down in the end by an external authority. Would-be companies considering a domain hack URL have quite a bit(.ly) of risk analysis to do.
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