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Did You Miss This? Get Off the Beaten (Domain) Path

Thinking of adding a custom domain to your blog? A world of whimsy awaits — create a memorable blog and brand by thinking outside the myawesomeblog.com box.

Blogging 101 folks are thinking about their titles and tagline and 201 bloggers are focused on their brands — a perfect time to explore a side of domains you might not have thought about before! Here’s a piece from Hot off the Press that might inspire some domain brilliance.

Lots of bloggers add a custom domain to their WordPress.com sites to simplify their URLs. But what happens if the one you want isn’t available, or you want an address that’s a bit . . . different?

Enter the offbeat domain. You’ve seen them around the internet; think of sites like:

  • deli.cio.us, the social bookmarking site.
  • bit.ly, the link-shortening tool.
  • ma.tt, personal blog of Automattic founder and WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg. 

Of course, you might see URLs like this on other sites as well — like picturesofthin.gs, my own humble photo blog. That’s because no special technical powers are needed to set up an offbeat domain with a WordPress.com blog.

If you’re new to custom domains, give this primer a skim first. If you’re ready to get off the beaten domain path, read on!

What are these weird URLs?

They’re all just custom domains — just like myawesomesite.com — that you can register and map to your WordPress.com site.

There are a few ways to have fun with domains. First, you can get creative with “regular” domains like .com, .co, .me .net, and .org, and end up with a tailored URL that’s perfectly you. Think:

  • fishing.net for a fishing enthusiast forum.
  • macra.me for your crafting blog.
  • simpati.co for a site about relationships
  • casta.net for your Flamenco blog.
  • cyb.org for your science fiction fan page.

When you start exploring alternate extensions, even more possibilities open up, like ma.tt — a custom domain that simply uses an extension (sometimes called a Top Level Domain) that you’re not used to seeing.

At WordPress.com, you can register and map custom domains using some of the most common extensions: .com, .co, .me .net, .org, and a dozen others. Outside the US, though, domains often have country-specific extensions, like .uk (United Kingdom) or .ca (Canada).

There are hundreds more, for countries and organizations around the world — and you can register them with an outside domain registrar and map them to your WordPress.com site. Register with Libya for .ly, the South Georgia Islands for .gs, Trinidad and Tobago for .tt, Belarus for .by, the tiny island nation of Saint Helena for .sh, and many, many more.

(Sadly, one of the extensions with the greatest potential to create fun URLs — .le, perfect for goog.le, app.le, or michel.le — is the extension of the extraterrestrial “Lunar Embassy” and is not recognized by earthly domain registrars. No, really.)

How do I find them?

Yourawesomesite.com, .co, .net, .org, or .me are available directly through WordPress.com, which streamlines registration, mapping, and setup into a single step — for more detail, check out our Domains 101 series. To get started, head to the “Store” tab in your dashboard.

For other extensions, you’ll need register the domain with an outside registrar. WHO.is is a useful tool for looking up domains to see if they’ve already been registered by someone else. For the registration itself, you’ve got a range of options from big names like Network Solutions to smaller companies like iwantmyname. If you’re considering the offbeat route, domai.nr is a particularly handy tool; plug in a word or name, and it will return a list of domain variants, with prices and links to sites where they can be registered.

I registered my custom domain. How do I set it up?

Adding a custom domain with a non-traditional ending to your wordpress.com site is exactly the same as adding a custom domain with a .com or .me extension. Whatever your custom domain is, it’s a three-step process:

  1. Register the domain name (that is, purchase the right to use the URL).
  2. Update the domain’s name servers to point to WordPress.com.
  3. Purchase the Domain Mapping upgrade on WordPress.com to connect the domain to your blog.

If you’ve never done this before, “Domains 101: Intro to Custom Domains” demystifies the process, while our support documents on updating name servers and domain mapping offer step-by-step instructions. Some non-US domains also require a zone record, which we’ll create for you using this simple form.

Quirky vs. easy to remember? Get the best of both worlds

Just because you can register a quirky domain doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. They’re cute and personal but may be harder for your fans to recall; we’re accustomed to remembering web addresses as “something-dot-com,” not “something-dot-gee-ess.”

You can have the best of both worlds by registering and mapping a .com (or .co, .net, .org, or .me) domain and something offbeat. For example, say you want to use the domain “offbe.at” (based on Austria’s .at extension) for your very offbeat site.

First, register and map offbeat.com to the site, so visitors have a memorable address:

offbeat.com

Then, register and map offbe.at to the same site — multiple domains can point to the same website — and set offbe.at as your primary domain. That’s what visitors to your site will see in their browser toolbars, even though they typed in the more familiar URL to find you:

offbe.at

Your fans get an easy-to-remember URL, and you still get some custom branding with a fun domain!

Want to learn more about custom domains? Check out:

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  1. of course, one could always use the DNS to promote clarity by using .at to show that you’re austrian or .ca to show you’re canadian or .com to show that you’re a commercial enterprise or….

    too radical?

    1. Cyb.org would not be possible unless the site is part of a non-profit organization. Registering a .org site requires proof of being associated with a non-proft organizationg, and even though, it is technically intended to be cyborg with a dot in the middle, the .org would still make it impossible for a regular site. The better option would be cybo.rg

      1. It’s true that .org domains are typically used by non-profit organizations, but it’s possible for anyone to register one — there are lots of bloggers on WordPress.com with .org custom domains (I also own a .org domain, used with a personal site), and you can register .org domains right through WordPress.com.

        I’m glad cyb.org is taken — that address is too good to waste!

      2. Apparently, I’m a little behind on some of the regulations. Apparently .edu is the only one that still has strict guidelines as to who may regsister for it, and that may be up for debate as well. My mistake.

      3. On a side note, while yes, cyb.org is taken, it appears to only be registered, but not attached to any DNS, as the name will not resolve in any fashion. This leads me to believe that perhaps it’s been bought up by a domain clearninghouse. Either that, or whoever bought it is simply trying to keep others from getting their hands on it, whether they intend to use it or not.

      4. cyb.org is registered and attached to at least two DNS servers:
        dig cyb.org NS
        cyb.org. 51405 IN NS ns2.access.net.
        cyb.org. 51405 IN NS ns1.access.net.

        and they each have an SOA record:
        dig @ns2.access.net cyb.org SOA
        cyb.org. 86400 IN SOA panix.com. hostmaster.access.net. 2009070100 3600 300 3600000 900

        so the domain exists and has nameservers that are at least superficially configured properly. there just isn’t much data there…..

  2. I bought my domain (through WordPress) but when I’ve clicked the links to it from other sites, I get a warning about an invalid security certificate. Do I need to purchase a new security cert from a different provider so that my readers don’t get the same warning?

    1. Hi there,

      I just went to your site, and I didn’t get any error messages. These types of warnings are usually related to your browser’s security settings when going to sites that start with https instead of http. Here’s some more information for you on that:

      http://en.support.wordpress.com/https/

      If you’re using an older browser, that may create issues, too. Either way, no, you should not have to purchase a new security certificate. Hope that helps!

  3. I’ve always wondered why we have to purchase a domain mapping upgrade. I thought that domain name providers would redirect the domain name to the site free of charge.

  4. Hi Michelle, I thought I registered for 201 but it seems the data on my stat (automatically loaded for me) is for 101? I am a bit slacked and haven’t yet get posted anything. Just need to digest this process a little bit more and i will be on the way. Must admit I am a little lost at the moment (or pushing myself too hard as I currently aim to do a post a day). Wonder if you could let me know in the nutshell the difference between 101 and 102 and wonder which applies better for me. I have be blogging for about 11 months. I am not too tech savy. Thanks Jess

  5. Hmm… I signed up for Blogging 101 but I haven’t received any info since. Alas, I fear I may be too late to join in now. Can someone please point me to where I can find the assignments and what we should be doing?

    1. Look for the Blogging U seal on the home page — it’s just to the right of the newest posts. Click on a challenge to see all the assignments to date.

      If you want to participate on The Commons, you’ll need a WordPress.com username. If you have one, I can help set that up for you.