FairWinds Partners — September 7, 2011
A recent post in The Chronicle of Higher Education highlighted the fact that some universities here in the U.S. have opted to use .COM domain names in addition to their .EDU domains. Typically, universities use their .EDU domains for their main sites – think Yale.edu, Georgetown.edu, Virginia.edu, etc. – because .EDU is reserved for legitimately accredited institutions of higher education in the U.S. Having a .EDU address automatically conveys legitimacy to web users, including current and potential new students.
However, in the case of Weber State University, its main address, Weber.edu, was not the best choice for marketing campaigns. Universities are only allowed to register one .EDU address, so information for prospective students tended to get lost among the information for current students, faculty, staff and alumni. So Weber State registered the domain name GetIntoWeber.com, and uses it in its marketing efforts.
This trend is common among other universities: San Diego State uses AztecShops.com for its bookstore website. The fact that universities are using .COM domain names shows that they are not fully beholden to their .EDU domains or opposed to using something different. It could also indicate that they are open to new gTLDs.
Some argue that new gTLDs will lead to fragmentation in the domain name space. But universities, who have been given a digital haven in the form of .EDU, do not suffer from the perils of fragmentation because they sometimes use .COM. The point is that they use .COM for different purposes, mainly marketing. Like corporate businesses, universities may also be able to extract marketing value from new gTLDs.
While they could retain their .EDU domains as their primary portals for current students, faculty, staff and alumni, they could also register new gTLDs for other purposes. Imagine Bookstore.University, Admissions.University, FinancialAid.University and others. Maybe in a few years, we’ll see Weber State promoting the domain GetInto.Weber. Some universities may even want to go a step further. Imagine if Georgetown secured a .GEORGETOWN or .HOYAS gTLD and offered alumni their own domain names and email addresses. This could be a great tool to engage alumni, and even encourage more frequent donation. There are a few Georgetown grads here at FairWinds who think that would be pretty sweet.