If you’ve visited a crypto company’s website recently, you’ve probably visited a URL ending in “.xyz'' instead of its cheugier counterpart, .com. From fintech Block, formerly known as Square, to venture firm Paradigm, to blockchain startups like Mirror, .xyz has become the go-to URL ending for many web3 companies. But what does it mean, and why has it caught on in the web3 space?
.xyz, released to the public in 2014, first surged in popularity one year later when Google parent Alphabet decided to use it for their rebranded website. The internet behemoth had run into an increasingly widespread problem -- the .com URLs for their brand were already taken, with BMW’s fleet management division using alphabet.com and American Broadcasting Corporation at abc.com.
So Alphabet decided to open up shop at abc.xyz, which presented an “unlimited branding opportunity” for its “futuristic company,” Daniel Negari, .xyz’s 36-year-old founder and CEO, told TechCrunch in an email. Now, .xyz may be one of the top five top-level domains (TLDs) in the world by traffic, according to the company’s own DNS data.
.xyz was created to “provide users around the world competition and choice when it comes to their domain name,” and is “the first truly generic domain extension with no inherent meaning,” according to Negari. While .com was meant for commercial use, .net for networks and .org for organizations, Negari envisioned .xyz as the TLD choice for users who felt they did not fit neatly into one of these categories or wanted to stand out.
“I firmly believe the market has adopted our mantra of “for every website everywhere,” Negari said. “Our mantra of openness and inclusion for everyone and everything has bled through into a community of creative thinkers that has embraced .xyz as their domain.”
How .xyz met web3
Negari is an active crypto investor with “numerous” investments in the space, including Gemini, MoonPay and BlockFi, he said. Because of his interest in crypto, he reached out to Ethereum Name Service (ENS) creator Nick Johnson to pitch him a collaboration.
“That historic collaboration allowed early adopters to use a .xyz domain as their wallet address,” Negari said.
.xyz founder and CEO Daniel Negari Image Credits: XYZ
ENS allows users to create a universal nickname for all their crypto addresses, providing a searchable database to make crypto wallets and transactions, which otherwise reside on a variety of different platforms, more easily accessible. Users can now create profiles to share their social media handles or other personal information in ENS using its native .eth domain or on a .xyz domain.
.xyz has continued to find ways to collaborate with ENS and work with the crypto community. It announced this week that it launched its “eth.xyz” service, allowing users to search individual ENS profiles simply by adding “.xyz” to the end of their .eth name rather than having to go to the ENS database to look them up, Negari said.
By allowing cryptocurrency holders to buy domains in their preferred names using Ethereum, ENS has creatively monetized users' desire to leverage the internet as an identity-building tool. Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke, for example, bought the ENS domain name tobi.eth earlier this month for 30 ether, equivalent to more than $120,000 at the time of the transaction.
Although .xyz domains currently fall under the purview of the DNS system, managed by internet regulatory authority ICANN, several parties are now working to develop a decentralized alternative to this system to underpin web3, TechCrunch's Amanda Silberling reported. .xyz's strategy to align itself proactively with web3 companies could present a host of new monetization opportunities based on identity and ownership in a decentralized web as this generation of internet users stakes new claims on domains.
.xyz runs a blog where it highlights companies, many of them web3 native, that have chosen to use its domain name ending, and cites reasons why.
Some of them opted to use it for simple logistical reasons. Defi platform Matcha said that using the .xyz web extension gave it many more naming options, and Ethereum data tool Dune chose .xyz because it allowed for a more concise web address.
Its domains, available to anyone who wants to purchase them, also tend to be more affordable compared to their alternatives. To that end, .xyz launched a class of domains known as 1.111B, which are 6- to 9-digit numerical domains available for 99 cents each year, Negari said.
Beyond its convenience and accessibility, some web3 builders see .xyz as a symbolic representation of their ambitions to build a new internet.
“We chose .xyz because it symbolizes decentralization and the new wave of Web3 applications,” Réka, the founder of decentralized autonomous organization Agora DAO, wrote.
Negari agrees that .xyz’s cultural significance may be one of its most important attributes, as it represents the next generation of online innovation after the .com era.
“The community is made up of hundreds of thousands to millions of individuals and small businesses who are actively breaking away from the status quo to take a stand for the future,” Negari said. “You do not have to be a non-profit organization or a commercial registrant - you can be whatever and whoever you want.”