.com vs .net: What’s the Difference & Which One Is Right For You?
What are the real differences between the .com vs .net extension? And how would choosing a .net domain extension over a .com domain extension impact your site’s success?
This top-level domain guide answers all of the above questions (and a few more) to help site builders create domains that keep customers coming back.
What is a domain name extension?
Before learning the differences between .com and .net (and other domain extensions), it’s helpful to first understand the basics. What is a domain name extension?
A domain name extension is everything that follows the period in your website address. For instance, .com and .net are two common domain name extensions.
You might also see domain name extensions called:
- Top-level domains (TLDs)
- Domain extensions, or just ‘extensions’
- Domain suffixes
But a top level domain name extension is more than just a string of letters you tack onto the end of your website address. Domain name extensions are a key part of your digital identity because:
- They help customers find your website – Whether customers type your full website address into their browser or use a search engine to find your brand, your domain name extension is a key piece of the puzzle.
- They lend credibility – A domain name extension makes your website seem credible to visitors.
- You must have one to create a website – Whether you use a domain extension provided by your website builder or purchase a custom domain extension, such as .bio or .social, your website address simply isn’t complete without that string of letters after the dot.
.com vs .net: The main differences
One of the main differences between .com vs. .net is historical context. In the early days of the internet:
- The .com domain extension stood for “commercial,” and it was most commonly used by for-profit brands
- The .net domain extension stood for “network,” and it was originally intended for brands focused on early networking tech
Without getting too technical, the .com extension and .net extension had very different applications when the internet first rose to prominence. But as the sheer number of websites grew, commercial brands started using .net when their desired domain name wasn’t available with a .com extension. This was before the days of domain name search and alternative domain name extensions like .io and .co.
In the recent past, .com was perceived as more credible to customers than .net—and the former was more popular than the latter. But in the age of descriptive domains (where site builders have hundreds of options for domain name extensions), these perceptions are beginning to fade.
Today, entrepreneurs can (and should) choose domain name extensions that are most compatible with their brands’ digital identities.
When to use .com
When choosing a domain name extension, .com is certainly an option. Businesses might choose .com because:
- It’s professional – Simply put, .com is a sleek domain name extension. It carries an air of professionalism and polish.
- It’s globally recognized – .com has been in use for decades, and customers around the world recognize it. For brands selling to an international or multilingual audience, .com is an excellent option.
- It’s credible – Since they’re long-standing and widely familiar to customers, .com sites can appear more credible. But in the age of unique domain extensions, customers’ impressions of .com vs. .net credibility are shifting.
- It’s widely applicable – From personal blogs to eCommerce sites and everything in between, .com is general enough to be applicable to a wide variety of website types.
However, there are also drawbacks to using .com extensions:
- It can be expensive – Why are domain names so expensive? It’s often because they’re in high demand. Specifically, .com is a highly sought-after domain name extension, and businesses might only find their ideal domain name at a high price tag if they’re married to using .com.
- It’s not personalized or unique – If you’re looking to create a highly memorable domain name, you might consider an alternative domain extension like .pro. A custom domain name extension like this can make your brand more recognizable to customers or help you create a one-of-a-kind digital identity.
One tip for entrepreneurs looking to use .com: learn how to find out when a domain expires. Expired domains are often available for purchase, giving brands a chance to scoop up previously claimed domains that are now inactive.
When to use .net
The domain extension .net is a widely available option for today’s brands. Since it’s slightly less popular than .com (especially for commercial sites), there might simply be more .net options available.
But availability isn’t the only advantage to choosing .net:
- It’s professional – Like .com, .net also offers a degree of polish. Since it’s a long-standing, widely recognized domain name extension, it’s also a highly sought-after option for professional brands.
- It’s tech-aligned – .net was historically used for networking-centered brands, and some of that perception still lingers today. For entrepreneurs in the tech space, .net can bolster tech-forward branding, product lines, or service offerings.
When it comes to drawbacks, .net and .com carry similar baggage:
- .net can be expensive – Since it’s one of the oldest, most widely recognized domain name extensions, .net addresses often fetch high prices.
- .net isn’t unique – Both well-established, classic domain extensions (.com and .net) aren’t particularly personalized. If you’re looking to build a highly recognizable, unique domain name, you might consider using a descriptive domain extension for your brand.
One of the most important considerations for entrepreneurs building a new website is visibility—how easy it is for customers to find your site on search engines like Google or Bing. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a key strategy for today’s brands looking to boost visibility, draw in new customers, and land new sales.
So, does your domain name extension impact your SEO ranking? As of late 2023, the answer is no.
However, there are domain extension-related issues that impact customers’ likelihood of clicking on your link when it appears in search engine results. Perhaps the most important is link recognition.
Even if a customer uses a search engine to find your website (instead of typing your full digital address into their browser), they won’t click on any resulting links unless they can positively identify elements of your search engine listing, like:
- Your brand name
- The icon or logo that appears in your listing
- Your web address
Your web address is displayed near the top of your search engine results listing, so it should be easy for your customers to recognize and trust. An easily recognizable web address and a sustainable, effective SEO strategy go hand-in-hand even if elements of your address don’t directly impact your ranking.
Protecting your brand
When it comes to securing a domain name that ends with .com or .net, entrepreneurs often must get creative to overcome the high competition for these extensions. Two tactics include:
- Buying expired domains – Learning how to buy an expired domain might be the ticket to getting the digital address you want. However, if your ideal domain hasn’t expired yet (even if the site is inactive), you might have to play the waiting game.
- Getting crafty with domain names – If your ideal digital address isn’t available, you might need to get creative with the phrase before the dot to secure a .com or .net domain extension. For instance, if your brand is called “Lisa’s Leather Belts,” and “lisasleatherbelts.com” isn’t available, you might opt for an address like “leatherbylisa.com” or “beltsbylisa.com” to secure a .com address.
It’s also important to note that using either .com or .net does carry an additional risk: competitor brands can capitalize on similar domain names. Let’s examine a hypothetical:
- Your brand sells hair bows for competitive cheerleaders, and you choose the domain name “cheerleadinghairbows.com.”
- You invest in SEO and spend a considerable sum on your domain name to support your brand’s online success. But one of your competitors decides to piggyback off of your SEO efforts by claiming a similar domain name: “cheerleadinghairbows.net.”
- Since .com and .net are both widely recognized, search engine users might not always remember which domain name belongs to your business. Or, maybe they’re just looking for brands with domain names that match the keywords they’re searching for. In either case, there’s a possibility that customers could navigate to your competitor’s site instead of yours.
The root of the issue in the above scenario is brand recognition. But how can today’s entrepreneurs ensure that their domain names are easily recognizable and memorable to prevent issues with competitors?
Enter alternative domain extensions.
Alternatives to .com and .net
Today, .com and .net aren’t the only domain name extensions on the market. There are hundreds of options for businesses, like:
Alternative domain extensions offer three key benefits for today’s brands:
- They’re unique, so they stand out to customers.
- They’re personalized and offer excellent brand alignment opportunities.
- They’re a relatively new technology, so they look and feel cutting-edge.
Descriptive domain extensions like these can help brands create domains that align with their imagery, audience, and goals. If you’re looking for a simple route to brand recognition, alternative domain extensions are certainly worth exploring.
Elevate your online presence with name.com
So, which is better: .com or .net? The answer depends on your brand goals, your budget, and your overall digital identity.
Either way, when it’s time to find a domain that gets results (no matter your chosen domain name extension), you need a partner who can help you find an impactful, affordable choice that aligns with your goals.
Name.com is today’s top source for domains, offering a streamlined platform that makes it easy to build a digital identity without compromises. Start your domain name search today.
Forbes. What Is a Top-Level Domain (TLD)?. https://www.forbes.COM/advisor/in/business/software/top-level-domain/
Forbes. .Net vs. .Com: What’s the Difference?. https://www.forbes.COM/advisor/business/net-vs-com/
Search Engine Journal. Does Domain Extension Affect SEO? Google’s John Mueller Explains.https://www.searchenginejournal.COM/does-domain-extension-affect-seo/431956/