What makes for a wasted URL? It depends on the person and the site, particularly what that person expects to see when they type the URL in and press return.
Consider, if you will, animal names. What do you think is on Dog or Cat.com? What would you want to see on Monkey.com? Would you want pictures and information on the animal? Would a company branding themselves or a product make the grade?
To explore these questions and more, Ape Con Myth surveyed 144 animal sites. Here’s what was found…
The State of .Com Animal URLs in 2012
Parked domains are a common sight online and it is no different for the animals. Roughly a fifth of the sites in the sample group proved to be nothing more than a bunch of paid advertising links. If you’re lucky, there’s a picture. If you’re really lucky, it’s a picture of the animal, but don’t expect much. In addition to our friends below, other animals in this sad group include the Boar, Hamster, Hippopotamus, Hornet, Jackal, Koala, Mouse, Otter, Squid, and Wildebeest.
PARKED WITH PRETENSE
Next comes the parked ads and links that seem like they are almost trying. For Chicken, you’re promised oven baked chicken recipes. The beauty of the Swan is channeled for plastic surgery. Turkey is ready to book your hotel in Istanbul. And Donkey.com wants you to know it is “Your Site For Buying A Donkey”. Good luck navigating towards those goals however, as search results often lead to more search results. If you get nervous about your privacy searching for things on Google, see what your gut thinks when you click a link on Chimpanzee, Elk, Mosquito, Porcupine, Shrew, Spider and the ever-loved Stinkbug.
“THE LEADING SITE”
Naturally someone was eventually going to smell a business plan in these animal droppings, which was the case with Name Administration Inc. of the Cayman Islands. They go big, touting themselves as “The Leading Cow/Hippo/Mink/Partridge/Snake Site on the Net”, despite not following through with the correct animal pictures nor making much sense of the searches. Nonetheless, they are there to help you find a saddle for your cow, video piano lessons for your partridge, car insurance for your hippo and all the beaver coats money can buy. Meanwhile, each page shows up completely blank with Ad Blocker Plus on.
Leaving behind the parking lot, we enter the construction site. Websites don’t write themselves after all. It takes a lot of time and care to create a good site. To make Whale.com as large and majestic as its namesake, even more so. In the meantime? Blue. Blue since 2007! What’s the word on Wolf? The countdown says 272 days to go! Crab has only been waiting a year, but looks like it will be a conceptual improvement from its previous life as the home of Charm Net ISP out of Baltimore. You’ll also have to wait in anticipation for Anteater, Antelope, Llama and Reindeer as they too are coming soon…
At the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got your big name animals and the companies or products they’ve become attached to such that they really seem to own it. You wouldn’t necessarily be looking for Camel cigarettes when you type in Camel.com, but you aren’t surprised to see them on the other side. Fox is the chart topper in this category and currently holds the title of highest ranked .com animal name according to Alexa, which has it as the 2,272nd most popular site online. Meanwhile, Caterpillar takes the cake with its use of both Cat and Caterpillar. And yes, Cat.com does perform better for them, ranked 25,373 versus Caterpillar.com‘s 172,057. Other major brand animals include the Beetle, Dove, Jaguar and Penguin, followed by the somewhat known Mole, Pony and Rhino.
Whether or not you agree with the above companies’ use of the animals, at least we can say that the animal gets something out of it. The presence of a large company, however, doesn’t always turn out well for our friends. Try to visit Bear, Duck, Jellyfish or Owl and you are redirected somewhere else, leaving the real URL all but extinct. While Owl makes some sense for AOL and Bear is what J.P. Morgan picked up when it bought the remains of Bear Stearns, Google and Bing have no reason to be negating the existence of sites that could be filled with pictures of ducks and jellyfish. And before you start projecting that owl into the past, AOL didn’t get it until 2010. In cases like this, the only reasonable thing to do is release these animals back into the wild. (Or, as we suggested for Unicorn.com, give them to a commission of children to decide their fates.) Other lost URLs include Armadillo, Barracuda, Mule, Panther, Rabbit, Stingray and Tiger.
Companies aren’t the only ones getting in the animal game though. In four cases, there was a person behind the mask. Seal probably has the best case for not being called a usurper, but that depends on who you like more. A Google image search says seals. The artist Anna Mir attempts to give a nod to the Platypus to make up for taking its nest, but unfortunately has failed to keep her links up to date, in addition to still having “Test” on the main page header. Who knows how Perry Ellis justifies taking Kangaroo.com but anyone with style should know this logo isn’t enough. And perhaps Greg “The Great White Shark” Norman should have just left it at having a great nickname. Shark.com gets about 20,000 visitors a month and it is difficult to imagine many of them not leaving disappointed.
WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
The largest contingent by far in the .com animal kingdom are businesses you’ve probably never heard of. They got the name and are running with it. Sometimes there’s a conceptual connection, other times it’s just a name. Tech companies seem to be the most fond of animals. We’ve got Albatross Voice Routing, Automated Production Equipment (APE), Barracuda Networks, Bull (digital systems), Cheetah Software Systems, Cobra Electronics, Coyote (logistics), Dragonfly (video), Eagle Aeronautics, Gorilla Systems, Grasshopper (virtual phone), Hawk Technologies, Hedgehog e-Procurement Solutions, Lamb (design consulting), Leopard Communications, Lion Technology, Pigeon Global, Raven Computer, Stork Technical Services, Walrus Internet and Zebra Technologies. Makes you wonder which came first, the company or the domain?
Next comes the outdoorsy types: Caribou Mountaineering, Falcon Guides, Goose Hummock, Locust (soccer), Pelican Products and Wolverine (shoes). Otherwise the range includes anything from Franchise Bison and Elephant Auto Insurance to Turtle & Hughes and Skunk Records. There’s more but we must move on…
Much like our friends at Name Administration, TABcom saw the opening and snapped a few major animals up for their pet supply business. They’ve got man’s best friend along with Bird, Fish, Horse and Ferret. And before you snicker at Ferret, just know that it is Bird pulling up the rear, ranking around 1.1M on Alexa followed by Fish at half a million. The strategy might be obvious and uninspired, but with useful supplies and pictures of animals, these might be the most satisfying sites in the bunch.
With business comes failure, but in the animal domain space, this particular troop was courting disaster from the start. Manatee.com is the home of The Forum in Manatee County, an industrial/office space in Sarasota, FL that was never built. Then there’s Ox.com, the official site of the OTA Financial Group, which apparently couldn’t find the words to explain what they do. Beaver.com is, thankfully, the only adult site in the list, though calling it that is a stretch. Below, the screenshot with Ad Blocker Plus (featuring the freakiest default avatar ever) is missing the large LiveJasmin chat room preview ad that you’ll get without ABP. And finally, we have the curious case of Slug.com in which someone thought that was a good name for a dating link site. Stranger yet, the copy in the yellow banner ad across the top: “Ask friendly monks anything for free at Monastery.com”, which is a whole other story…
IN THE BALLPARK
So now, with completely lowered expectations, we look at a few sites that at least try to fulfill some of the promise of their respective domains. Crocodile.com might be valet parked but can help you find crocodile skin shoes for your croc tour. Lobster and Seahorse will help you buy those creatures and Sheep can help with a virtual adoption. There’s the American Tortoise Rescue, a community for Cricket fans (the sport, but eh), and even though it’s currently defunct, it was a Dolphin camp. Lizard might really be a fail, but Iguana will sell you everything you need to know about your green iguana and, though it is a work in progress, maybe someone will follow through on what is already a surprisingly decent Cockroach site.
MAKING A GO
The problem with most business animal domains is that the company comes off smaller than the totality of the animal, so special consideration has been given to sites attempting to serve the general population with a furry, winged or antennaed mascot. Playing second fiddle to Fox’s top slot, Ant.com comes in as the 10,158th most popular site online, outranking Gopher.com, another search engine we’d never heard of, by almost a million. There’s also Fly for your airline searches, Bee for online retail in the UK, Badger for registering your animal domains, Oyster for rating hotels, Gazelle for selling your electronics and, although it might be dead in the water, Goat for your daily deals. The punchline with these sites might be that the one thing holding them back is their domain name.
Honorable mention in this category goes to Buffalo.com, a fun site covering Buffalo, NY.
And finally, a nod to the .coms that were bought by real internet pioneers in the days when most domains were probably still available. You can tell the second you get to the page. You’ve got Digital Giraffe with 18 years of monthly web publication, a back-end developer named Steve Manes over at Magpie, Panda Programming since 1985, Rhinoceros Consulting complete with an Ionesco reference and Mark Henderson’s delightfully simple Squirrel.com.
Nothing, however, quite compares with Toad, the home page of John Gilmore, one of the founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Not only was John the first person to register an animal domain, Toad.com was the 84th .com domain registered… ever. If only he had thought to start a domain zoo back then. Thankfully he had better ways to spend his time…
THE GRAND FINALE
Being the internet and all, in the end perhaps it’s all about the eyeballs. The goal of every internet site is to be seen. That’s what we are here for. As such, the sites’ rankings will be our final measure.
How much attention are the animals getting?
(click image for full version)