In this series of articles, we will analyze how some brands have transformed after upgrading their domain name. So, let’s start from the beginning.
If there is something this past decade has taught us, is that change is the only constant and in the business world, the companies that succeed are the ones capable of adapting to the new circumstances, reinvent themselves, change their business model, and find other purposes or missions.
For some companies, part of that process of improving or finding their way to survival and success has meant to restructure, downscale, or rebrand. For others, the path to success has meant to upgrade their domain name.
Mark Zuckerberg originally created Facebook as a social network for the students at Harvard, where he was studying at that time. Conceived in 2004 as a student directory for Harvard students, the creation of Mark Zuckerberg was originally operated on the domain name TheFacebook.com. After taking off and moving its operations to Palo Alto in 2005, Zuckerberg acquired the EBM (exact brand match) domain Facebook.com for $200,000 with a redesign, a move that helped not only to amplify the brand’s recognition but to use the best domain possible for the company. While it was a considerable investment at the time, it is clear, given the success of the social media giant, that it paid off.
When asked what he would do differently during an interview by Tech Crunch, Mark Zuckerberg was quick to mention he would “get the right domain name.”
Facebook did not stop there, and in 2010, it bought the domain FB.com for $8.5 million from The American Farm Bureau Federation. Facebook Inc. now owns over 39,000 domains, which include all variations and extensions for a brand name.
Fun fact: It is called Facebook because it is a directory with photos and basic information. The name is taken from the sheets of paper distributed to freshmen, profiling students and staff. Within 24 hours, 1,200 Harvard students had signed up, and after one month, over half of the undergraduate population had a profile.
Like Facebook, Twitter was also a business idea that later transformed into something bigger (and better). In 2006, Jack Dorsey and Noah Glass envisioned Twitter -whose domain name at the moment was twttr.com– as an SMS-based message service for friends.
There were no plans to acquire the domain with vowels unless the platform was a success, but it did not take long before co-founder Evan Williams decided to invest in the EBM (Exact Brand Match) domain Twitter.com just for $7,500, a decision that proved to be the right one in light of the unquestionable financial success of the company and the benefits that bright to the brand.
Fun fact: While brainstorming names for Twitter, founders Evan Williams, Jack Dorsey, and Biz Stone wrote down a number of options and dropped them in a hat. The rest is history.
In 1998, Max Levchin, Peter Thiel, and Luke Nosek created Confinity (confinity.com), a company meant to develop security software for handheld devices, before changing its business model to develop an electronic payment system that later was called PayPal. At the time, a guy you might have heard of called Elon Musk had launched x.com, a financial company that bought Confinity because he believed that its money-transfer system was revolutionary.
After some market research showed that X.com was a vague name with some potential pornographic implications because of the x, a restructuring was done and the company was renamed PayPal in 2001. From a branding perspective, this was the best outcome for PayPal, whose name clearly explains what the company is about (clearer than x.com, that is for sure). As for the company’s financial success? The rebrand to PayPalis what made the business thrive. According to Richtopia, PayPal has recorded a record of 1,7 billion transactions with 32 payment transactions per active account. PayPal’s name and usage were spreading around the world faster and faster.
Fun fact: Musk reclaimed the domain name X(.com) from his former employer, PayPal, in 2017. Just to remind you, Tesla does have a Model X and the name did clearly influence how he branded his space venture. He explained later that he bought the domain because “it has great sentimental value”. However, Musk has not yet put this name into use.
The year was 2009. Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick were looking to reduce the costs of direct transportation, which eventually translated into an internet-based service for cab rides, and decided to launch Ubercab.com in 2010.
But the Ubercab name stirred up some legal issues when the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the California Public Utilities Commission filed a Cease & Desist order against the company for using the word cab in its name and allegedly breaking other violations.
How did Ubercab.com resolve its impending legal issues? It bought the domain Uber.com from the Universal Music Group for 2 percent of the company, which they later bought back for a little less than 1 million dollars.
What are the biggest takeaways from the story of Uber? Besides the clever maneuver of buying back the shares, which could have earned Universal Music Group at least $532 million, it allowed the company to get a more brandable name than Ubercab, which could fit more services and products, thus becoming more valuable and equitable in the long run.
Fun fact: The name Uber is derived from the German word meaning “above all the rest”.
We hope the above information will help you in making informed decisions about your brand. What can we do to empower your brand? Get in touch, we are always happy to chat.