When the Internet began to grow ICANN, the main regulatory committee for addresses, create seven different top level domain options in an attempt to help sort and organize the sites being registered. By providing these different options, ICANN was also laying the groundwork for the future.
Analysts predicted what we now know to be true, that the Internet would grow explosively and the demand for IP addresses would be huge. Without some system in place before that demand began, the World Wide Web would become gridlocked. One of the most specific top level categories they created is the .net domain name.
The “net” in the name stands for network and the purpose of the address was to provide identifiers to companies or institutions that were focused on computer and Internet network frameworks. The idea was to create almost a sub-environment for the innovators and designers of the Internet superstructure and infrastructure to communicate. Initially, this was exactly what the .net domain name was used for.
What no one predicted was what would happen when the choice of which domain name to use was left to the user to determine. It was easy to regulate when IP addresses and names were assigned after review of an application. Applications are still used whenever a new domain name is introduced during the Sunrise period.
The Sunrise period is when registration is not open to the public but companies can apply to register names that are branded or associated with them. After Sunrise is over, everything is fair game and the application method is replaced by a self-elect system. This self-electing system usually takes the form of a series of choices that are presented to the user and tied to price. If you have ever gone to register a domain name you have seen the return list of available names with cost attached to them.
As it became more and more expensive to register a name with the highly recognized dot com extension, users were presented with cheaper choices like a .net domain name. It did not matter what the actual content and purpose of their site was, the choice of dot net became one of affordability and this damaged the credibility of the dot net category.
Dot net became seen as a cheap alternative to a dot name registration and the social perception of sites with a .net domain name was not good. They were viewed as less serious and professional then dot coms and this perception plagued the name throughout the 90s and into the opening of the 2000s.
This began to change as more and more people became Internet savvy and began registering their personal websites. Suddenly, the price factor became what redeemed the .net domain name from the amateur category. As people began to see the expense of a dot com and to recognize that using another tier of name could actually make good business and marketing sense, respect began to return to dot net.
It has never recovered its original territory of being for network professionals, but is now considered a respectable business alternative. Generally, people perceive the choice of dot net over dot com as being driven by a company having a name or product too close to a major business that already owns the dot com version.
A .net domain name is a good choice for a business. Yes, it is also a good choice for computer networking professionals and companies, but for any business it will work well. The shift in perception and the issuance of other domain name options (such as dot me) have lessened the personal use of the dot net name. Most people seeking to brand their persons online will seek out a dot me name for blogs and opinions.
A dot net name also has an advantage for a business that has a heavy local and real time presence because it does underscore the fact that they are not a global or national concern. In an odd way, it reinforces the fact that the business is focused on service and the community. There are also a lot of prime name options available and still affordable as a .net domain name which also makes it a good place to start for a small business.