.IO — A deeper look at the adoption rate of one of the startup world’s most popular domain extensions

It’s a situation so many startups find themselves in, they come up with a name for their company only to find out the .COM is out of reach. Enter .IO, a domain extension that has seen incredible adoption rates that don’t seem to be slowing down.

While most people think .IO stands for “input/output” it’s actually a ccTLD (Country Code Top Level Domain). Just like Italy has .IT and Spain has .ES, .IO actually stands for “Indian Ocean” (read more) a British Territory that is, not surprisingly, operated by a company in the U).

As a startup founder here in San Francisco I see .IO every day and I see more and more startups gravitating towards the extension every year. At the same time, it’s easy to get too close to something and mistake what you’re seeing as a general trend…so I decided it would be good to dive into the data a bit more.

To collect more data, I reached out to 101Domain, the top domain registrar for ccTLDs, if anyone was going to have the data I wanted, they’d be the experts. It turns out they rank on the first page of Google for a lot of the top search results related to .IO domains. So I asked nicely if they would share their Google Search Console analytics data, they said yes — so now I have some nice never-before-seen data to share with the world.

First let’s take a look at the number of searches 101Domain has seen for IO domain:

Now let’s compare this the same search for COM domains:

You might do a double-take here so let me explain the numbers here a bit more. When it comes to raw search volume, more people are searching for terms related to .IO domains than .COM domains. Of course, this doesn’t mean .IO is more popular than .COM, but it does show just how many people are trying to learn more about .IO domain names.

With an average position within the first ten results on Google, it’s safe to say that this page’s impression count almost directly correlates to the search volume for these terms.

Drilling down a bit deeper, you can see the specific search terms people are using:

Not surprisingly “.io domain” and “io domain” are the top two results with over 300,000 searches in a 16-month time period. After that you can see searches for people trying to figure out what .IO actually stands for and likely stumbling on the concept of a ccTLD like I reviewed above.

Now let’s look at the same data for .COM:

It’s easy to see that everyone knows what a .COM domain name is so they aren’t searching for the meaning of COM, instead the search queries are generally focused on finding places to buy and register .COM domains.

I think if you asked your average person about which of the two terms would get more search volume “.io domain” or “.com domain” 99.9% of people would say .COM domain of course. And yes, while .COM has been around for a lot longer and is certainly more well-known, it’s hard to ignore the attention .IO is getting.

Thanks to 101Domain for sharing all the data, this definitely solidified the fact that it’s not just me seeing .IO everywhere!

co-founder at Bold Metrics| previously at Sonos | I write a lot and take way too many photos

co-founder at Bold Metrics| previously at Sonos | I write a lot and take way too many photos