Let’s stroll through the history of the web by examining domain name trends:

1. THE EARLY ERA: widget.com

A free for all! No one has registered anything! The world is your oyster and you can buy whatevery you want for $6.

A weird quirk of this era was that random businesses would score incredibly valuable domain names, by virtue of employing or knowing a computer nerd (relatively rare at the time!) Also, random nerds would buy major brand name domains and no one was sure how to sort it out.

Driving Constraint: Knowledge the web exists!

Notable Examples: pets.com, cars.com

2. AN ‘E’ FOR EVERYONE ERA: ewidget.com

Sure, you could buy any name you wanted, but if someone saw your brand in the newspaper would they know it’s an internet company? Probably not! So slap an ‘e’ or an ‘i’ on the front of everything.

Driving Constraint: Your audience’s awareness of the internet

Notable Examples: ebay.com*, emachines.com

Spiffy writes in to correct me about eBay: "eBay is named after 'Echo Bay Technology Group,' the founder's consulting company. It wasn't named as part of the trend you identified, though of course its prominence contributed to it."

2. THE SHORT TLD ERA: widget.ly

All the good dotcoms are taken, so let’s venture out to some new TLDs. Also, characters are expensive on Twitter and other networks! Link shortners are a thing! Get cute and grab a .ly, .in, or .tv! Go short!

Driving Constraints: Character limits on social networks and SMS; dotcoms are taken

Notable Examples: bit.ly, justin.tv

3. THE NO VOWEL ERA : wdgt.com

Everything is taken but dotcoms still matter and are trusted more! Try another spelling! Drop some vowels and let search take care of the rest, since everyone’s finding your frontpage via Google anyway. No one’s typing URLs. Get close enough!

Driving Constraints: Search engine priority; user trust; dotcoms are taken

Notable Examples: tumblr.com, flickr.com, scribd.com

4. THE THE ERA: thewidget.com

Even the misspellings are taken! Use an article! THE names are in! And if the ‘the’ is taken, go further and just keep adding qualifiers.

Driving Constraints: Disemvoweled names are taken; search engine priority; user trust; dotcoms are taken

Notable Examples: thewirecutter.com, theverge.com, @therealdonaldtrump

5. THE FREE MONEY ERA: widget.com

Rates are low and money is everywhere! Buy the name for millions! This is the SaaS era, if you’ve proven you have product-market fit, we’ll spend anything to improve your CAC!

Driving Constraints: Noisy market makes it hard to stand out

Notable Examples: color.com, square.com, box.com, zoom.com, slack.com

6. ???

Everyone’s watching their budget, search and discovery online is in turmoil, and now even all the .ai names are taken.

What do you think we’re in store for? What will be the domain name trend of this era?

My hunch? I think we’re going to revert back to removing letters while preserving the phonetics. The rise of text-to-speech and voice-controlled assistants and other interfaces are going to make having a unique phonetic name incredibly valuable.

Make sure there’s no homonyms for your app!

Have thoughts? Send me a note