Observations of German Domain Names

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, November 19, 2007 at 04:00 AM with 14 comments

photo of German domain namesAs much as I write about domain names, it probably comes as no surprise I think about them and notice them more. On a recent vacation to Germany, I made many observations on them, and to the fortune of myself and my wife, they did not disrupt the trip. Well, not too much.

One observation I made was the wide use of the German ccTLD of .de. A ccTLD is a country code top-level domain,. A top-level domain is commonly referred to as the domain name extension. Where .com, etc. can be used throughout the world, a ccTLD is ideally designated for an entity in a particular country. Most all of the observations I made of domain names had them ending in .de, both for German-based entities as well as international entities and brands. This was similar to the observations I made in Denmark the year before, where most all domain names ended in .dk.

I can see this for 2 reasons. The first is to direct a German language reader directly to German content on the Web site of an international brand. Have you ever gone to a Web site and the first thing you are presented with is a list of continents or countries for you to select before you get to any content? Identifying a user coming from Germany would lead them to German content, with the occasional option to select other languages. The second is national pride. It can be inferred that though .com is international, it originated in and is predominately used for US Web sites. It also adds a deeper level of identification that it is used by a German entity.

A second observation I made was the widespread use of dashes in domain names. I have a few photos of domain names in action, which represent only a handful of what I observed over the course of the trip. Where dashes can make for a more visually pleasing domain name display, it is easy to forget about them when recalling them from memory or when typing them. In the case of these particular names, a version of the domain names without dashes is not registered.

Whenever I work with a client to select domain names, I recommend they avoid dashes for the reason I mentioned above. I do have some clients who have them and use them, however they have been in use for many years, and in those cases alternate names redirect to the Web sites as well.

If anyone reading has any information or insight into the use of dashes in domain names in Germany, please comment to this post.

TechnologyDomain Names • (14) CommentsPermalink


Hi Mike,

This is really bizarre and stupid.

What is going on in Germany???

Look at the first domain: NEW-MORNING-PIANOBAR.de

Not only is the non-dashed version not registered, how is one supposed to remember that there is no dash between pianobar.

Piano Bar is not one word.

Bizarre and stupid.

The next one is even worse.

Look at: frankfurt-main.ihk.de

It’s NOT a domain name.

It’s a sub-domain.

So you are supposed to remember the dash after frankfurt and that there is a dot after main.

Does that make any sense?

Nice article.


Picture of Patrick McDermott Comment by Patrick McDermott
on 11/19/07 at 12:43 PM

Hi Patrick:

I am not familiar if “pianobar” is a one-word term in Germany or not, as sometimes English words are used either by themselves or together, but the inconsistency of dashes can cause for confusion, no matter the language.


Picture of Mike Maddaloni Comment by Mike Maddaloni
on 11/19/07 at 03:12 PM

It sounds odd to us, but I suppose it really depends on the local market. If everyone in Germany is used to the dashes between words, and your primary target audience is German, then leaving them out would probably be a mistake. I’d be curious how many of these companies have “.com” names as well, and if they use the dashes in those or leave them out.

Picture of Dr. Pete Comment by Dr. Pete
on 11/19/07 at 04:08 PM


I want to make my previous comment less harsh and say “naive and foolish” instead of “bizarre and stupid”.

I am aware there are cultural differences in the world.

That said, it is naive and foolish not to register
the non-hyphened version of a hyphenated domain.

If you build a high traffic hyphend-domain
then you leave yourself open to dilution either
by a competitor ,porn company, gambling company, etc. that does register the non-hyphened version.

When I saw frankfurt-main.ihk.de , I was curious how the advertiser expected the reader to realize, never mind to remember, that it is a sub-domain
with a dot instead of a dash.

Some time ago Andrew Allerman of DomainNameWire.com took a 3 hour car trip from
from Austin,TX to Houston,TX.

For fun,he started counting the number of domain names he came across on billboards and signs.

The total was 68.

I asked him how many of the domains he could recall and he said:
“If I think about the domain names I really remember from the trip, I’d say PizzaHut.com and Lennar.com (home builder, saw their buildboard many times). I wanted to remember some of the other’s because I’m interested in their services, but I keep typing the domains I “remembered” and apparently they’re wrong.”.

If interested see that thread here:

Unless ALL domains in Germany are hyphenated, I don’t see how anyone could remember domains with
inconsistent dashes or that have dashes but are sub-domains.

I wanted to moderate my “harshness’ as I think it’s just a matter that these companies have not learned how to properly feature and protect their domain names.

If you own and are building a business on the domain Mattress .com ,you better also register Matress .com and Mattres .com.

Or lose lots of traffic to those that do register the typos.

Being from the US ,I have seen so many times that if you register:

someone will quickly register


and someone else


That was really my point.

Sorry for my initial harshness Germany. grin


Picture of Patrick McDermott Comment by Patrick McDermott
on 11/19/07 at 05:32 PM

On behalf of my 1/8 German ancestry, I forgive you, Patrick smile Actually, I more or less agree with you about those specific examples. I was just wondering more broadly about the use of the dashes and if that’s a nationwide practice in Germany. It could be that, if we asked a German citizen, they would also think those domains are dumb.

Picture of Dr. Pete Comment by Dr. Pete
on 11/19/07 at 06:18 PM

Although, we see ever more hyphenated surnames on sports jerseys.  B^)

Picture of geoffgo Comment by geoffgo
on 11/19/07 at 06:29 PM

Pinaobar is one word in german. Hyphens are used as it is easier to read and makes more sense to a german mind (replaces the spaces, as it cannot be used in domain names). The example with the sub domain here are sub optimal. IHK is chamber of commerce frankfuert/main a city. So also this makes sense.

Picture of Stefan Comment by Stefan
on 11/20/07 at 03:37 AM

Hi Stefan - Thank you for your input and insight.


Picture of Mike Maddaloni Comment by Mike Maddaloni
on 11/20/07 at 07:22 AM

Indeed dashes are very popular in Germany.

Well… sometimes dashes would be very useful for .com domains as well to avoid confusion:


Still bashing dashes? wink

Picture of Laurent Comment by Laurent
on 11/20/07 at 10:40 AM

Hi Laurent - Yes, I have seen this list before, and dashes would certainly help them!

I am not bashing dashes, it was an observation based on the lack of use of them in the US and other places I have been.  Insight from you and Stefan and anyone else has been a great education.


Picture of Mike Maddaloni Comment by Mike Maddaloni
on 11/20/07 at 10:47 AM

“Still bashing dashes?”


Not me!

I just think it’s smart to also register the
non-hyphened version but that may because I’m from the US.


Picture of Patrick McDermott Comment by Patrick McDermott
on 11/20/07 at 06:01 PM

Using dashes might also be good when trying to get popular domains like good-food.com. The SE will usually see the domain as goodfoood while searching and might drive good traffic. It really depends on what you plan with the domain, traffic from SE or an easily remembered domain name

Picture of Samir Comment by Samir
on 02/20/08 at 07:14 AM

I think the reason these domain owners chose the hyphenated version is because of having no idea. Like another reader already mentioned further up the top, you would be insane to not register the un-hyphenated version if it is available.

The problem lies with ill advise and nothing else.

Picture of Susanne Hamburg Comment by Susanne Hamburg
on 09/28/08 at 06:13 PM

Dashes are used more and more in url’s today. Its very easy for the search engines to spider the url’s as they are important when indexing a web page.

Picture of andrew Comment by andrew
on 10/10/08 at 12:34 PM

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