Social.com – the height of the URL bubble?
They say that when it comes to investing in property it's all about location, location, location.
If you buy a house or an apartment in a sought after area, it ought to be a good long-term bet financially. Land, after all, is one thing they're not making any more of.
A similar logic has been applied to URLs, the addresses websites use to allow users to find them on the internet.
With tight control over the so-called top level domains (TLDs) – the dot com, dot org, dot gov bits – there has traditionally been a finite supply of the most valuable URLs.
Going social for $5 million
That fact was evidenced this week by the auction sale of Socal.com. You could hardly a pick a more contemporary web address to put under the hammer, given the huge buzz around everything even vaguely social media related.
The opening bid for Social.com was set at $5 million, which has observers pondering the possibility that it will become the world's most expensive URL, a title currently held by Sex.com ($13 million).
But just as stock market watchers question the valuations attached to the new breed of dot com brands, like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, there is some debate about the long-term value of URLs, even those with the timeliness of Social.com.
The majority of web journeys these days start with a search, but if you look at the results for any number of terms, particularly here in Australia, you'll see that a relevant URL is still a pretty good start when it comes to ranking for your target keywords.
Of course, correlation is not the same as causation. A site that bought homeloans.com.au or carinsurance.com.au is also likely to have invested in any number of SEO activities to improve its rankings, but the URL (both the homepage and across the site) remains an important ranking factor – for now at least.
The $13 million watermark
In the latest versions of their respective browsers, both Google and Microsoft have morphed their address bars into search boxes.
This encourages the user to run a search even if they know the URL of the site they're looking for – something webmasters will have seen evidenced in their analytics by the number of brand searches sending them traffic.
As well as morphing into a search box, the address bar is also getting squeezed out altogether, with both Google's Chrome and Mozzilla's Firefox allowing users to hide the address bar to make more space for content.
Finally, there has been talk of late that restrictions around top level domains (TLDs) will be relaxed to allow organisations to fully-personalise their URLs.
Such a move would flood the market with new web addresses, which, as any property investor knows, will push prices down.
What all this means is that while Social.com may well become the world's most expensive URL this week, making it a wonderful investment for its owner, it may be some time before it faces a serious challenge for the title.