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The shortest domain name possible, at least within the centralized domain name ecosystem, is 3 characters in total, a single-character country-code extension name.

However, for many country-code extensions, single letters are not released, so there are fewer possible short names than you might think.

Recently one of the world’s most valuable brands, Nike, acquired the single character N in the .ke extension of Kenya.

While the price for the transaction will not be released, the seller’s broker, Brandmo, has confirmed the sale and that the buyer was Nike and the seller was Domain Hacks.

Brandmo recently announced the sale in a tweet.

The Seller

While Brandmo was the selling broker, the domain name was owned by Domain Hacks.

The seller, Domain Hacks, had obtained the name in a .ke premium auction held in 2021, the first premium auction at that registry since 2017.

In the auction, Domain Hacks acquired 12 single-letter .ke domain names, as well as 2 short words, stri.ke and sha.ke.

Interestingly, the exact name ni.ke was available in the auction, with a reserve price of $5000, but was not acquired by Nike. That name will therefore be unavailable until the next premium .ke registry auction.

Domain Hacks provided the following comments on the sale negotiation.
Brandmo represented the seller in the transaction. They promoted the name through multiple channels including to possible end-users, one of which was Nike who showed immediate interest in the name. As is the case when working with large corporations, it was a long drawn-out negotiation process with multiple late-night conference calls with Nike's team, offers and counteroffers, and finally an agreement.

Domain Hacks is clearly a proponent of domain hacks. He went on to comment that major businesses
…should seriously consider acquiring not only their traditional exact match domain hacks, but also give consideration to acquiring new inventive domain hacks which use the dot in place of a letter.

Domain Hacks had a stellar early 2022, selling pock.et for $30,000, j.et for $60,000, and capital.xyz for $105,000. In 2021, he sold b.et for $100,000.

The Negotiation

I asked a spokesperson for Brandmo to describe how the sale had come about. He summarized the negotiation this way:
I enjoyed doing another deal with our client, Domain Hacks, as well as working with the Nike team. This was a group effort to craft a deal through a fairly lengthy negotiation process and by my count at least ten different people were involved in this deal at various stages. To the credit of our client and to Nike, each party showed a willingness to evaluate the offers and counteroffers that were being made.

He went on to mention the importance of sharing data on both prior sales and existing use.
In order to justify our client’s price expectations, we shared a number of well-researched comparable sales, as well as examples of other companies successfully using similar domain names. The goal was to keep the negotiations grounded in data and facts, and understandable even for those with limited exposure to the secondary market for premium domain names.

Nike

Nike is in position 85 in the Fortune 500 list. Nike, headquartered in Oregon in the United States, has annual revenue of nearly $40 billion, and more than 75,000 employees. Nike is the world’s largest manufacturer of athletic shoes and equipment.

Nike is one of the world’s most valuable brands. In 2020, it was estimated that the brand alone was worth $32 billion, the most valuable brand in their sector.

Fun Fact: The origins of Nike date to 1964, but they were not known as Nike during the first 7 years, when their name was Blue Ribbon Sports.

The name Nike is derived from Greek mythology, where Nike is the winged goddess of victory. The company logo is meant to represent a goddess' wing.

What Are Their Plans?

No one who I was able to communicate with knew how Nike plans to use the domain name. Was it a defensive purchase, or are they considering rebranding on the single-letter name at some point? Or do they intend to use it as an URL shortener, or for some specific future marketing campaign?

At time of writing, the domain name does not resolve to a website, and it appears that it is still under control of a third-party brand protection company.

A number of major brands use single-letter shorteners. For example
  • Facebook Messenger uses m.me
  • Twitter uses the single letter t in the .co extension as an URL shortener
  • Amazon’s shortcut is a.co
  • Telegram messaging uses t.me
  • Google’s official URL shortcut is g.co
  • The YMCA, commonly referred to as The Y, own the shortcut y.org
  • The United Arab Emirates official government portal can be reached via u.ae
  • NPR, public radio in the United States, own the great single letter n.pr.
There are many other examples, some of which are listed on the Wikipedia entry for single-letter second-level domains.

Is It A Hack?

A domain name hack is a domain name that uses content from both sides of the dot to form the name, thereby improvising to ‘hack’ a solution. Some view domain hacks only when the dot splits a word, while others view the term more broadly, including cases where there is a word on each side of the dot, together making a common expression.

So is n.ke a domain name hack? It is if you consider the dot as the letter i. Graphically the dot could be written as a stick figure i, with the head representing the dot from the domain name. Are we about to see use of the dot representing an i or an o in shortened domain hacks? I could not think of an existing brand example that does that, however.

Single-Letter Domain Name Sales

In early 2020 I took a look at Single-Character Domain Names.

Here is an update with the top single-character sales recorded in NameBio from the past 24 months.
  1. z.org, $257,000, Legal Brand Marketing
  2. b.et, $100,000, Domain Hacks
  3. j.et, $60,000, Domain Hacks
  4. q.to, $57,500, Sedo
  5. u.fr, $45,169, Sedo
  6. m.community, $38,888, Sedo
  7. c.live, $28,500, Sedo
  8. e.company, $25,105, PremiumSale
  9. t.gl, $25,000, Sedo
  10. m.chat, $25,000, Sedo
  11. a.company, $22,000, Dynadot
  12. v.et, $14,000, Domain Hacks
  13. d.gs, $13,882, Sedo
  14. y.at, $13,750, Sedo
  15. 0.de, $13,490, Sedo
In 1993 the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) explicitly reserved the remaining single-letter and single-digit domain names in the .com and .net extensions. Ones that were already in use were grandfathered. As a result, only a handful of legacy extensions are in use, including x.com owned by Elon Musk, z.com used by GMO Internet, q.net currently used by Q Networks, and a handful of others. Braden Pollock of Legal Brand Marketing has a number of single-character .org domain names.

Registering .KE Names

The registry for .ke domain names is KeNIC, a company licensed to manage and administer the .ke extension.

According to DomainNameStat, there are about 158,000 .ke names registered, placing it in position 142 by registration numbers. TLD-list only shows 9 registrars for the .ke extension. But that list does not include anywhere near all registrars. Each year the KeNIC registry host a competition for top registrar for .ke, with the most recent winner being truehost.cloud.

NameBio does not include any sales from the .ke extension, and only 8 from the .co.ke third-level commonly used by commercial organizations in the country. None of the listed sales are more recent than 2019.

Tip – Tool For Finding Hacks

If you do decide to search for some available domain name hacks, Merriam-Webster offer a tool intended for Scrabble players that is also handy for domain investors seeking words that end in particular letters.

Just enter in the browser URL scrabble.merriam.com/words/end-with/ke to find lists of words of different length that end in ke. You can change the ke to. for example, et if seeking domain hacks that end in the .et Ethiopia extension, or any other TLD.

Final Thoughts

Both Brandmo and Domain Hacks are active on social media.

I covered Ten of the Best Domain Hacks in Active Use back in 2019.

You can search for domain hack sales using NameBio by selecting Niche as the Category, and then Domain Hacks as the subcategory. Here is a link to the list of domain hack sales organized by price. Keep in mind that there are various definitions of domain hack, however.

When major companies express an interest in domain hacks, that is likely to spur others to consider domain hacks. However, it should also be pointed out that there are examples of businesses moving back to a name with a conventional structure. Jamie Zoch tweeted on the day I finished this article about Briq, a startup that automates financial workflows for construction and other projects, had just acquired briq.com. They started on the domain hack br.iq.

I hope readers will add to the discussion. Do you think the dot can reasonably be considered an i or o in a name? Can you think of a commercial example in use?

What are your thoughts on domain hacks in general?

Are you glad that most of the single character .com were never released, or would you like to see those high-value domain assets in use?


Thanks to Brandmo and Domain Hacks for answering my questions about how this sale came about. Thanks to NameBio and DomainNameStat for data used in this article.
 
The views expressed on this page by users and staff are their own, not those of NamePros.

Maximinus

Established Member
Impact
2,259
So is n.ke a domain name hack? It is if you consider the dot as the letter i. Graphically the dot could be written as a stick figure i, with the head representing the dot from the domain name. Are we about to see use of the dot representing an i or an o in shortened domain hacks? I could not think of an existing brand example that does that, however.
I can not agree more!
If "N.ke" is a hack, "N-ke" is available in almost every extension!
Great job again, Bob!
Thank you!
 
Last edited:
Impact
29,312
Thanks Bob for another educative article. I tried visiting this list but it auto redirects to scrabble.com. Any help on how to access the tool please?
It is a page with ad for their Scrabble dictionary but does also have list with words of various lengths that end in .ke. Here is the direct link that works fine for me.

https://scrabble.merriam.com/words/end-with/ke

Hope it works for you too.

Bob
 
Impact
202
Great article once again Bob - not to long and going through many aspects of that matter.
Congratulations to @DomainHacks.com !

I consider N.KE a great hack. Not so much because I se the dot as an replacement for the letter "i" but rather that I se the dot as a wildcard that everybody clever enough can still understand (similar to the * star, but here rather in a positive sense). It's simply cool and fresh imho.
 
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