Registrations for .inc domain names are open, but is it worth it to get one?

Businesses interested in a .inc domain name will need to pay $2,500 per year in registration fees.

Registrations for .inc domain names are open, but is there real business value? The .inc gTLD is positioned as an alternative or complement to traditional .com names, though it comes at a substantial price premium.

There's a new top-level domain seeking to give businesses a home on the internet, as an alternative to .com or .org. The .inc registry, opening on Wednesday, joins the fray of over 1,000 generic top-level domains (gTLDs) opened for registration following ICANN's decision to allow for arbitrary top-level domains to be created back in 2013.

The .inc registry is being positioned as "an intuitive domain ending that quite literally 'means business'," and "the black card of the internet." This is a distinction the initiative quite likely deserves, as Intercap Registry is asking $2,500 per year in registration fees for a .inc domain name—a steep price compared to the $12 per year Google Domains asks for a .com domain.

SEE: Domain Name System (DNS) Policy (Tech Pro Research)

Registering a .inc domain name does come with business benefits other gTLDs do not offer, however. The company touts offers like "up to $1,000 in free transaction fee credits" from Square, and "free base formation, name check, tax ID, & Minutes and Bylaws" from LegalZoom, in addition to other benefits from Intuit, Google Ads, WeWork, Indeed, VistaPrint and others. These benefits might make the upfront cost sting slightly less, though these are not recurring benefits—making the proposition value of these benefits less useful after the first year.

Launch spokesperson Shayan Rostam is also claiming that the introduction of .inc protects against cybersquatting, or registering a domain containing a trademark in bad faith to sell it to the trademark owner for an inflated price. Cybersquatting is technically illegal in the US, though jurisdiction issues limit the efficacy of regulation. Likewise, the cost of going through arbitration channels to force forfeiture of domain names is a lengthy and expensive process, giving cybersquatters room to profit in the low five figures by simply offering a domain for sale at a lower price than the cost of arbitration.

The registration of a .inc domain name, for comparison, is essentially too high for cybersquatters to meaningfully profit, though this "solution" does little more than change which pocket such money would go to.

How do I register a .inc domain name?

Prior to general availability, there are two "early bird" registration periods. The first is from March 27 to April 30, and "is exclusively for trademark holders to secure their intellectual property," according to Rostam. The "priority public" period is from April 30 to May 7, to allow organizations to register variations of trademarks or "or other domains that are important to their businesses." Registration fees are higher during this time. For trademark holders, the fees are $3,600, though fees jump to $59,999 when the priority public period opens.

Interested organizations can register domains at authorized registries. A list is available here.

Should I register a .inc domain name?

Understanding of gTLDs among the general public is still not particularly high, so most companies have stuck with .com despite other options being available. The .biz TLD, introduced in 2001 in an attempt to address congestion of the .com TLD, has stagnated at 2 million registrations for roughly the last 10 years even without the price premium that .inc is asking. (Rostam states that ".biz doesn't look or sound professional, and it's frequently blocked by spam filters because .biz is commonly used by bad actors." The spam claims, at least, are true.)

For comparison, the .llc gTLD launched in mid-2018, and has 6,399 registered domains as of March 25, 2019. If your company is smaller, that might be worth a consideration at $30 per year, though it is easy to imagine people trying to type in businessname.llc.com due to a lack of public awareness of that gTLD.

To the credit of Intercap, there are not excessive restrictions on how you can use a .inc domain name. Using one for internal-facing systems, like an employee portal, is allowed.

Ultimately, registering a .inc name is difficult to recommend unless your organization can afford a recurring $2,500 fee, when far less expensive options are available.

For more on gTLDs, learn why rampant spam and falling registrations show new gTLDs have limited business value, why ICANN's generic top-level domain rules cause major headaches for online businesses, and how internationalized domain names create phishing risks.

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By James Sanders

James Sanders is a staff technology writer for TechRepublic. He covers future technology, including quantum computing, AI/ML, and 5G, as well as cloud, security, open source, mobility, and the impact of globalization on the industry, with a focus on ...