Artisanal Websites: The rise of .io domains for well crafted web services


From the very first moment I heard of the .io TLD a few years ago, I thought it was absolutely fantastic. The geek in me just really responded to the idea of a domain name that ended in IO - the input/output connotation seemed like a perfect fit for web services. So when finally opened up registrations to the world, I was pretty psyched... Well, except for the fact that the yearly prices are insane - £60 ($93) for the first year, and £30 per year after that. Holy crap! That's like 1990s Network Solutions prices!

But the good thing is that the high cost of the .io domain names, combined with their late availability, meant that *tons* of really great, descriptive dictionary words were free, as well as a ton of 2-letter domains too. This is just so unbelievably rare nowadays, it's really worth the money if you're going to do anything interesting with your website. The chance to not having to spell your site name sans vowels (flickr) or spend tons of money to get the properly spelled domain name later (twitter) is awesome. And again, the .io ending is just fantastic - it sounds great, and almost no one will associate .io with any specific country. Though the fact that it's for the British Indian Ocean Territory - and thus under stable British rule - is great as well, especially compared with Libya's .ly domain.

I've registered more than several .io domains myself over the past couple years - which is definitely a very, very expensive investment - but I love the fact that I've got these fantastic domains in my back pocket for when I want to do something interesting.

Apparently, I'm not alone. Almost every day I read about a new startup with a .io domain name, and they are always doing something really interesting. It seems like there's a lot of techies like myself that jumped at the chance to register great dictionary-word based domains, and are now using them for their really cool new web services and projects.

These new .io sites are almost artisanal in nature - small, well crafted and functional. It's like a TLD for techies with taste.

Once I thought of this a few hours ago, I decided to do some searches for .io sites so I could see if my initial thoughts were on target or not. I'm sure there's thousands of .io websites out there, but what I found are a bunch of really cool projects and services - 191 of them - which show the trend pretty clearly. (I skipped the personal blogs and random news sites). There's lots of open source projects (Redis, Brackets, Launcher), a few mobile-app landing pages (Avocado, X-Ray), a ton of new web apps and services, several conference pages (Lightning, Renaissance, Resonate) and a few older companies or organizations who've changed their name to take advantage of a cleaner .io name. (Oh, and freakin' which is sort of a food blog about, well, meat. So insane, I couldn't resist.)

Despite the varied purposes and organizations involved, the thing all these sites have in common is that they are really well done - the design, attention to detail or simply the technology involved in the project. They all seem to be clean and focused on a single great idea, some in beta or about to be, and many already in business, concentrating on some unique niche. If dot-coms represent the Starbucks of the Internet, then dot-io domains seem to represent the busy corner cafe with the fresh grinds and swirly lattes, the dude with the ear loops behind the counter, jazz music playing and tables filled with locals using the free WiFi for hours on end.

Anyways, I made a list of the interesting io sites I found and passed the URLs through a free screenshot app called Paparazzi to create a bunch of thumbnails. I included them below so you could see for yourself what I'm talking about. Sure there are thousands of other sites out there, and plenty of .com's, .me's, .ly's, etc., but have you have seen so many cool sites grouped together like that, all with such clean URLs before? Not a scammy site among them... it's pretty amazing. Check them out yourself.


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