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.io Domains – What Do They Signify?

.io domains are now a big part of the start-up story. It is quite surprising to find out that the extension which was created in the year 1997 has some limited number of websites registered under it. On the other hand, the extension names such as .com, .org, and the like have already been taken, which implies that a person or an organization must buy that domain (usually at a higher price) from that owner in order to occupy that.

To know what .io stands for and what benefits it offers to businesses, it is important to know how the domain name came to exist and when. To start with, the domain name was first created for the territories conquered by the British in the Indian Ocean and hence the extension name .io.

History of .io

The .io domain has been created in 1997. In 1998, Levi Strauss & Co. registered the first website on the .io domain thereby called The .io domain name is registered with and administered by the Internet Computer Bureau in United Kingdom and was used mainly for political purposes. However, at present times, the domain name can be used by business organizations in any verticals, irrespective of the country they are established in.

There are some controversies regarding the evolution of the .io domain. The ICB say that they pay some percentage of profits gained from the sale of the .io domains to the British Government. Some of this money should be given to the native Chagossians. The British Government however, has denied any such payment and stated that they are unable to pay the Chagossians the same for this reason.

What is the .io domain extension?

.io is an Internet Country Code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD) owned and administered by Internet Computer Bureau (ICB), which operates under the name of The authority of administering the .io domain has been assigned to the ICB by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). The .io domain allows labels which consist of characters such as alphanumeric and hyphens, which must range from 3 and 63 characters. It is important to note that the label must not start or end with a hyphenated character. In addition, the label should not contain two consecutive hyphens in a label. The domain name must not accumulatively exceed 253 characters.

The .io domain name also has a set of restrictions against the usage rights of any website. For instance, the applicant of a .io domain needs to necessarily be based in British Indian Ocean Territory. However, third-level domains such as can only be registered if the individual or the organization is from the certain area. Restrictions are put on second-level domains, which may be owned by or top-level-domains. For instance, websites with extensions such as cannot be registered.

.io Domains

Although .io domain is defined as a ccTLD (Country Code Top-Level Domain), Google considers the domain name as gTLD (Generic Top-Level Domains) because the accumulative domain names mostly do not match with the category of British Indian Ocean Territory. Most startups are moving on to opt for .io domain names for its availability.

Why are startups turning to .io?

Most startups and technology companies have turned to .io and the numbers are increasing every day. There are quite a lot of benefits of buying a .io domain:

  • The best part of a .io domain name is its uniqueness. Websites with .io extension names have a market advantage because they suggest specific approach to business and are easy to remember.

  • .io domains are easy to remember because they are shorter than most other gTLDs, such as .com or .org or .net.

  • People had only started to take notice of the domain name in 2003, so there are still high chances of availability of any domain name businesses want.

  • One can create interesting names for their websites. For instance, an art company can name their website ‘’.

  • Websites having a .io extension name enables customers to recognize the websites among others. Hence, higher conversion rate.

  • Considered as a gTLD by Google and most other search engines, the websites which have a .io extension name are less likely to get affected by geo-targeting.

  • Companies with websites that have a .io extension have found it easier to work with such a domain name, which has led to a higher adoption rate for the .io extensions.

What does .io mean in terms of business/startup names?

A lot of start-ups are buying .io domain names. In addition, most technology driven companies are also building their websites under this domain name to earn the stature of a startup. According to most business enthusiasts, .com does not serve as an ideal domain name for most trendy and out-of-the-box startups. On the contrary, the streamlined approach and minimalist design of a startup business seems to quite match the .io domain. The domains with a .io extension are a great bargain for startups because they offer a specific domain name with a comparatively low price. It is also important to note that I/O also stands for Input-Output in the context of computing so, while almost all startups are taking to a digital approach, the domain name adds value to the domain name.

Common issues with .io domains

Along with the rising popularity of .io domain names, there are quite a few factors that may harm websites with the .io extension in terms of conversion rates and overall business.

  • .com extensions are expensive when compared to the .io domains. This may encourage most startups to turn to the latter extension names, but at the same time it also indicates that the startups do not have the capability to deliver quality to their target audience and customers. Contrarily, websites with .com extensions appear more successful because they seem to possess the capital and resources to acquire the domain.

  • Although .io domains suggest a more tech-oriented appeal for the people associated with a startup, it is often intimidating for the broader target audience. For instance, if the target audience of a particular website includes developers and founders of a startup, .io extensions may seem appealing to them. On the contrary, common marketers, sales people and the like, they might be unable to relate to what they are looking for.

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