September 06, 2019

Using a .com domain name for your academic website


TLDR: A domain name ending in .com is fine for an academic website.
I’ve seen many people ask on blogs or on Twitter whether it’s okay to use a domain name ending in .com for an academic website. The main concern from askers is that a domain ending in .com implies commercial and academia is not commercial.

Yes, it is true that the .com TLD (top-level domain) means commercial. However, .com is used so often that most people just think of .com as something Internet-related, rather than something exclusively commercial.
If you are an academic and you get a domain name ending in .com, no one would think you’ve sold your soul outside of academia. So go ahead and get a .com domain name.
You might be thinking: how about a .edu domain name? Unfortunately, the .edu TLD is reserved for academic institutions, so individuals can’t buy a .edu domain name. Sorry. Note that you can host your website under your institution’s domain name (which usually ends with .edu), but it comes with its own concerns.
Since .com is very popular, you might not find the domain name you want ending in .com. Fortunately, there are other options for TLDs (top-level domain).
.net is a good option. One of my favorite academic blogs is by Matt Might, and his domain name is matt.might.net.
.org is also an option and it certainly avoids the commercial connotation if you are still concerned about .com. When I was in grad school, I created personalinformatics.org to put workshops and papers related to personal informatics, my research area.
Other perfectly valid TLDs are:
  • .me - Popular for personal websites because of the “me” connotation. TLD for the country of Montenegro.
  • .io - Very popular with the tech crowd. TLD of the British Indian Ocean territory.
There are many more TLDs, but some TLDs are associated with spam websites, so it’s best to double-check.
NOTE: This article assumes that you’ve decided to host your academic website on your own domain. Refer to this blog post for discussion on whether to use your university’s domain name vs your own domain name for your academic website.

Other readings:


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