September 6, 2011
Trading In ‘.edu’ for ‘.com’
(Josh Fischman, Chronicle of Higher Education) — The news that, after what seems like forever, new Internet domain names will be allowed has sparked conversations among college CIO’s and communication specialists about the limits of the “.edu” domain. The news has also provoked serious talk about what might be gained by trading in those three letters strongly linked to higher education for Web addresses like “yourgreatuniveristyhere.com” or even something that ends in “.weberstate” or “.brownuniversity.”
Some observers worry, though, that an influx of new names might dilute the power of “.edu,” which has been the online way to say “a legitimately accredited institution of higher education in the United States.”
Weber State University is among those that have already started branching out, with “getintoweber.com” as an online destination. It is “a vanity URL we pursued to dovetail with our ‘Get Into Weber’ marketing campaign that started in 2007,” says John L. Kowaleski, director of media relations. “We wanted something catchy and easy to remember, since the intended audience for “getintoweber.com” was prospective students.”
Why not simply add a “getintoweber.edu” address to the existing “weber.edu“? Because “.edu” is restricted by the “one per institution” rule that has been in effect since 2001, says Gregory A. Jackson, a vice president of Educause, the higher-education-technology group that administers the “.edu” domain. “The U.S. Commerce Department, which gave us the contract to administer the domain, views ‘.edu’ as something that identifies an institution, not multiple names that mean the same insitution,” he says.
That limit is what led Weber State to “.com,” Mr. Kowaleski explains. “While we could have directed this audience to weber.edu, that option presented several drawbacks from a marketing standpoint.”
First, at the weber.edu home page, it would have been hard for prospective students to find the right link to apply or get more information amidst all the essential links for existing students, faculty, and staff. Second, the “.com” URL let Weber State track Web traffic on that site, giving the marketing and admissions departments valuable feedback. At the time, it would have been hard to pull that info out of the main weber.edu address.
“We don’t see this ‘.com’ site as diluting the weber.edu domain, simply augmenting it for a target audience,” Mr. Kowaleski concludes, noting that once a student is admitted, all future interactions with the university go through the main address. More…Posted by: psilberman