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While browsing around the internet you probably noticed that almost every website you come across ends in .COM. This ending is called a domain extension. When you go to register a domain name for a website you will have the option to decide on not only the name of the site but also an extension that you like. The most common ones are .COM, .NET, .ORG, etc. However, every now and again, you may also have noticed some more rare ones.
.GOV, for example, is an extension that is only available to websites affiliated with the United States government, such as “nasa.gov”.
You may also have come across a .BIZ website. This domain extension stands for “business,” and it informs the visitor of the website that the purpose of the site is to conduct business for the company that runs it. An especially rare one is .BANK, which is particularly hard to obtain and very well-policed, and is only in use by, as you could probably guess, banks.
While .COM and .NET are generic and widely available extensions, more specific extensions like .GOV and .BIZ are more informative. They allow a visitor to see at a glance what the website they are about to visit was established for and/or who or what entities are overseeing it. This specificity can be also very helpful as it makes the website stand out from the ocean of .COMs and often indicates that the website owner has status in the field that the extension references.
History of .AERO
Enter the .AERO domain. This domain, as you might be able to guess, was established for the specific use of those in the aviation/aeronautics field. It is sponsored and operated by SITA (Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques), which is a multinational company providing IT and communication services to the aviation industry. They provide service to over 400 members, including airlines, government agencies, aviation educators, and more, which they claim accounts for approximately 90% of the world’s aviation industry.
Since its inception in 2001, .AERO has been a proof-of-concept for new top level domains. It was set to renew in 2006, and then continued to be renewed every six months until 2009 when SITA and ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) completed a ten-year sponsorship for the domain. Today the domain is being operated by these two parties.
Advantages to Using .AERO
The primary advantage of using a .AERO domain if you are in the aviation industry is that, simply put, no one else can use it. Unlike a .COM or .NET domain, .AERO is available exclusively to those in the aeronautics field. Because of this, it can easily be used to set your website apart from the crowd and give you an edge against competitors using generic and common domain extensions.
As opposed to other domain extension, like .BANK, that have rigorous prerequisites that must be fulfilled before it can be obtained, a .AERO domain only requires verification that the applicant is a part of the aerospace/aeronautics field. It is also not exclusive to institutions like airlines or government aeronautics, but can be obtained by pilots, airports and recreational aviation institutions, aviation educators, and more. To review a full list of field members eligible to apply for this domain extension, as well as a brief list of requirements for each member, you can visit the .AERO website page.
How To Register for a .AERO Domain
If you wish to register for a .AERO domain, you’ll first need to apply for your aviation community member ID through SITA. If approved, you can register your domain through a SITA-approved registrar. A quick search in Google shows 101domain selling the .AERO domain for the price of $64.99. These registrars are the only ones granted permission to vend and maintain .AERO domains.
And since the registration period can be set anywhere from one to ten years, the terms can be tailored to suit the needs of everyone from aviation enthusiasts to large scale airlines.
How .AERO is Protected
The .AERO council is devoted to making sure that the industry-specific domain is being used only by those in the aviation community. Below is a short press release concerning the practice of “front running,” a manipulative and under-handed ploy that prevents industry-specific domains from being used effectively. Due to its length the press release has been included in full. You read the release in its entirety via the .AERO council’s website:
“[Front running] occurs when someone conducts a search for a domain name and, shortly thereafter, someone else (a “front runner”), using information obtained during the search, preemptively [sic] registers the name. This action prevents domain names from being registered by those who were originally interested. Suggestions have been made that front runners buy search data from Internet service providers and/or registries in order to find names being searched. We are pleased to confirm that the .aero registry has NEVER sold and will not sell search data to any party. We absolutely oppose the practice of front running.”
As the press release reveals, despite the lack of rigorous security and verification requirements that other domains enforce, such as .BANK, the .AERO domain is still protected by various parties, so you can remain confident in the legitimacy and integrity of the domain.
Why Some Are Hesitant to Make the Switch
Despite the seeming advantages of the .AERO domain, many of the biggest players in the aviation industry have been slow to make the switch. United Airlines, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines, for example, are all still using the .COM extension. However, some of the smaller entities in the field have made the switch. If you would like to see an example, visit the website for the Sacramento International Airport to see the .AERO domain in action. The Airline Network News and Analysis website (ANNA) has also made the switch. This website is a good example of how a .AERO extension adds elegance and simplicity to a domain.
To sum it all up, the .AERO domain does have a few notable advantages over a .COM or .NET domain, but those advantages are largely either aesthetic or related to consumer perception. It sets a website apart from the crowd, and it provides the benefit of being more instantly recognizable to visitors, but it offers no real advantages in terms of protecting your website from hackers or increasing SEO (although many studies have shown a direct correlation between eye-catching domain names and higher click-through rates). If you register a .AERO domain, however, you do have the support of SITA in protecting your site from front-running and other forms of predatory behavior on the part of cybersquatters.
Ultimately, how important it is for you to have and use a .AERO domain over a .COM is really a matter of preference.