Domain name hacks

04 August 2020

Why hacky domain names are used and where they can go wrong

An increasingly common trend is the use of domain hacks, wherein one uses TLDs in an unintended or unconventional way. I've noticed this recently in the primary instance of Invidious, invidio.us. While incorporating the TLD into the domain name like this might be more visually appealing and perhaps elegant, there are several downsides to doing so in my view.

Each time I type that URL I find myself having to backtrack two characters to insert the period for the TLD. I perceive it as a single word, hence my typing habits oblige me to type the word in its entirety without pausing. If I attempt to insert the period before completing the word, it breaks my flow and I can't easily work out where the period should go.

Now imagine you're telling someone to visit one of these domains - how do you pronounce it? "Invidio, dot, us"? Or "Invidious with a dot between the o and u"? Imagine dictating such a domain to a less technologically savvy individual who is only used to hearing "dot com" and their regional equivalent. Of course, they may still be able use a search engine to find what they're looking for unless they're typing in a shortened URL (the horror).

All of these are unnecessary inconveniences introduced just so your domain name looks a bit prettier.

Not using appropriate TLD also removes information normally contained within a domain name: the type of entity the website is for. .com for company, .net for networks, and regional variations of each. TLDs have a semantic purpose - a purpose which is discarded if they're used in a hacky name.

Of course, this website is itself guilty of using a TLD in an unintended manner - .me is for Montenegro, but here it instead represents a personal website. This hack is commonly used to the point where the semantics of the TLD have been de-facto overloaded, so I thought it was an acceptable choice for my own personal website.

Ideally there would be an TLD that better applied to a generic personal website. There are some other TLDs I considered, before I eventually settled on .me as being my favourite option:

Unfortunately transferring to a new domain can be quite a pain, so for the foreseeable future I'm stuck on williamvds.me, even if a more appropriate TLD appears.