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Avoid Unusual Top-Level Domains in Custom Domain Names

Remember the heady dotcom days, when businesses were desperate to get a short, memorable, easily typed .com domain? It quickly became difficult to get what you wanted—so much so that deep-pocketed companies paid exorbitant sums for just the right domain.

Before we go any further, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. Domain names are necessary because computers on the Internet are all identified by inscrutable numeric IP addresses. You can remember and type apple.com easily; 184.31.17.21 not so much. Domain names have two or more parts: the top-level domain (read from the end, such as com) and the second-level domain (like apple), plus optional third-level domains (which could give you support.apple.com).

Since the days of speculating in .com domains, however, hundreds of additional top-level domains have been opened up, including domains from .aaa to .zone. There are now top-level domains for .doctor, .florist, .lawyer, and many more, including the general .xyz. It might be tempting to switch from the awkward dewey-cheatham-howe.com to the shorter and more memorable dch.lawyer. And even if there isn’t a profession-specific top-level domain that works for you, you may think that if abc.xyz is good enough for Google’s parent company Alphabet, surely it’s good enough for you.

Alas, much as we appreciate the creativity and flexibility offered by these alternative top-level domains, we’d like to dissuade you from using one, if possible. Problems include:

  • Email deliverability: If you’re sending email using an alternative top-level domain or including links to that domain, it’s much more likely that your email will be considered spam by receiving systems.
  • SMS deliverability: Some SMS text message providers will automatically delete messages containing URLs with alternative top-level domains in an effort to protect their customers from phishing attacks.
  • Social media spam filtering: As with SMS text messages, social media posts that include URLs with alternative top-level domains may be categorized as spam or as linking to a malicious site.
  • Firewall blocking: Abuse of alternative top-level domains has become so commonplace by scammers that some companies prevent their employees from accessing websites using certain alternative top-level domains at the firewall level.
  • User perception: Although there’s no telling how anyone will react to a particular top-level domain, people won’t think twice about .com but might think .ooo seems sketchy. (We would.)

Obviously, it may not be possible to get the domain name you want in .com. What to do? There are a few strategies:

  • Expand or abbreviate: At this time, people mostly don’t see, remember, or type domains apart from those that go with businesses that do a lot of real-world advertising. So if you need to add or subtract words (or letters) in your domain to find a unique one, that can work.
  • Use a country domain: Two-letter top-level domains are restricted for use by countries, so .us is for the United States, .ca for Canada, and .au for Australia. Every country has different rules for who can register them. For instance, it’s possible to get a domain ending in .it (Italy) as long as you work through a registrar that acts as your representative there. .io (British Indian Ocean Territory) and .ai (Anguilla) are popular top-level domains among tech companies.
  • Stick with better, pricier alternatives: Not all alternative top-level domains are equally problematic. The classic .net and .org are fine, and .biz isn’t bad. But how to determine that? When you’re checking to see if a domain name is available, compare prices. For instance, at one domain name registrar, iphonewhisperer.xyz costs only $1 per year, whereas the iphonewhisperer.biz version is $4.98 per year, iphonewhisperer.net is $9.18 per year, and iphonewhisperer.studio is $11.98 per year. The more you pay, the less likely that domain has been abused by spammers and marked for filtering.

In the end, when it comes to domain names, it’s best to be conservative and stick with a top-level domain that won’t cause people or filters to think twice. That’s probably .com, if you can make the rest of the name work for you.

(Featured image by iStock.com/BeeBright)


Social Media: Tempted to get a short, memorable domain name ending in .xyz or .shop? As we explain, that’s a bad idea if you care about user perception, email and text message deliverability, and not being blocked by social media and firewalls. Details at:

Ever Wondered Which Words to Capitalize in a Title? Use Capitalize My Title!

When you’re writing a blog post or email newsletter, you’ll eventually hit the question of how to capitalize words in a title. There is no one right way, but just as with poor spelling and grammar, randomly capitalized titles can reduce reader trust in your knowledge, competence, and expertise. The trick is to pick a capitalization form and style guide to follow. There are two capitalization forms: title case (where important words are capitalized) and sentence case (which is capitalized like a normal sentence). Then there are a handful of major style guides, including the Associated Press Stylebook, The Chicago Manual of Style, and The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage. It’s never a bad idea to pick one and learn its rules, but for a quick shortcut, turn to the Capitalize My Title Web site. Click a style guide tab at the top, select a capitalization form, and paste or type your title. The site automatically applies the appropriate rules to your title. Press Return to copy it to the clipboard for pasting into your document.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

Tips for Setting Up a Comfortable and Effective Home Work Space

Vast numbers of people who previously reported for work at an office every day are now working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s sensible, and if you’re included in that group, there was probably even a little thrill of “I get to work from home!” at first. But as those who have telecommuted for years know, it’s not as simple as settling down on the couch with your laptop. Here are a few tips.

Make a Dedicated Work Space, If Possible

Particularly if you’re not home alone, you’ll want to create a space that’s dedicated to working. Otherwise, it’s difficult to focus on work instead of what’s happening in your home. A spare bedroom with a door is ideal, of course, because it lets you avoid the fridge, the TV, and your family, who may also be trying to work or do schoolwork at home.

But if you don’t have an extra room, or if you need to share it with your spouse and kids, think about ways you can create individual spaces, perhaps with bookcases or makeshift curtains.

Either way, your goal is to avoid seeing and hearing others. Your partner’s activities can be distracting, and listening to your kids discussing a school project will make focusing on your work all the harder. Sound isolation can be difficult to achieve in an open room, but that’s what earbuds are for. Those with noise-canceling capabilities, like the AirPods Pro, would be best.

Pay attention to lighting as well. Putting your monitor against a window probably won’t work well during the day, and overhead lighting can cause glare.

Set Up an Ergonomic Working Environment

It’s unlikely that your home office furniture is equivalent to what you have at work, but if you’re going to be putting in full workdays at home, you need to pay attention to ergonomics.

Many tables are slightly too high to sit at comfortably with your feet flat, your hips at a 90-degree angle, and your hands floating comfortably above the keyboard, with your elbows at a 90-degree angle. Do what you can to achieve that position; if necessary, raise the chair and add a footstool.

Good, inexpensive chairs with height adjustments can be hard to find, though the IKEA Flintan is well-reviewed and only about $80. A small pillow can provide lumbar support if necessary. Try to make sure the arms, if present, are low—you should use them only when not typing.

It’s difficult to achieve good ergonomics while working on a laptop, or, even worse, an iPad because you’re almost always looking down too far. With a MacBook, you can achieve the ideal sightline either by attaching a large monitor that you can position at the right height or by raising the MacBook and using a separate keyboard and mouse or trackpad at the proper typing height.

Potentially Upgrade Your Internet Connection

Even beyond whatever apps you need to do your work, it’s likely that you’ll end up doing a fair amount of videoconferencing. You may need to increase the throughput of your Internet connection, and it’s important to remember that upload and download speeds are separate. You usually have much higher download speeds, so focus on the upload speed when evaluating your plan.

Apps vary in their bandwidth requirements, but you can consider a 1 megabit per second (Mbps) upload speed a safe minimum, with 3 Mbps being sufficient for nearly any video calls you’ll need to make. The download speed should be at least equivalent to the upload speed, but that will almost always be true.

If your current connection isn’t fast enough, contact your Internet service provider. More throughput will usually cost more, but ideally, your ISP can just change some settings to upgrade you. In some cases, a new cable modem or similar network hardware may be necessary, and in the worst case, you may need a new cable from the street. Whatever you do, try to avoid any plan that comes with a bandwidth cap!

Don’t be afraid to compare prices if you have multiple providers, and even if you have sufficient bandwidth now, it may be worth calling to see if plan prices have dropped since you subscribed.

Upgrade Wi-Fi Hardware

Finally, if the only place in your home that you can work isn’t well served by your current Wi-Fi router, it might be time to upgrade. That’s particularly true if you’re working on old AirPort base stations from Apple.

For creating a Wi-Fi network that has the most coverage, look into mesh networking gear like Eero and AmpliFi. The beauty of mesh networking is that you can add another router or beacon to extend the network without complicated setup.

That said, contact us before ripping your network apart, because on-site visits to fix problems may be difficult or impossible for a while.

(Featured image by Gabriel Beaudry on Unsplash)


Social Media: Working from home like the rest of us? Here’s our advice on setting up a comfortable and effective workspace.

Ever Wanted to Get a Custom Email Address? Here’s How (and Why)

Some facts about ourselves are difficult or impossible to change, but your email address doesn’t have to be one of them. Switching to a custom email address might seem overwhelming, and it will take some time, but it’s not that hard or expensive (and we’re always happy to help if you get stuck).

Why Consider Switching to a Custom Address?

Why would you want to take on such a task? Independence. If you’re using the email address that came from your Internet service provider, you could end up in an awkward situation if you have to move and switch ISPs. Any address that ends in @comcast.net, @anything.rr.com, @verizon.net, @earthlink.net, or the like could be problematic. You also don’t want to rely entirely on a work email address—there’s no guarantee that your employer will forward email for you indefinitely if you take a different job.

Also, an email address says something about you, much as a postal address does—there’s a difference between an address on Central Park versus one in the Bronx. If you’re not happy with what your email address implies, you might want to switch.

What can an email address reveal? Those with a free Juno, Hotmail, or Yahoo account likely signed up years ago and don’t take email very seriously. People who use an @icloud.com, @me.com, or @mac.com address are clearly Apple users, and those with an address ending in @live.com, @msn.com, or @outlook.com are probably Windows users. .edu addresses identify students, teachers, and school employees—but if you’re not one anymore, your email looks like you’re wearing a varsity jacket in your 40s. The big kahuna of email is Gmail, which boasts about 1.5 billion users worldwide now—as a result, using a Gmail address is fairly generic.

The ultimate in independence comes when you register your own domain name, which usually costs less than $20 per year at sites like 1&1 Ionos, Domain.com, easyDNS, Directnic, and Register.com. Then your address can be anything you want at your new custom domain, and you never again have to worry about being tied to your ISP or associated with a free email host.

How to Change to a Custom Address

Step 1: Register a new domain name. The hard part here is thinking of a name that hasn’t already been taken. It’s best to stick with the traditional top-level domains like .com, .net, and .org—if you get into the new ones like .beer (yes, that’s available), your email is a bit more likely to be marked as spam. Most domain registrars will also host your email for you, and if you go this route, you can skip Step 2.

Step 2: If you’re already using Gmail or another independent email provider that isn’t tied to your ISP, log in to your account at your domain registrar and configure it to forward all email to your existing email address. In this case, you can skip Steps 3 and 4.

However, if you aren’t happy with your current email provider, you’ll need to set up an account with a new one. There are lots, but many people use a paid email provider like FastMail or easyMail that usually charges less than $50 per year and supports multiple mailboxes. When you set up the account, you’ll need to create one or more new email addresses at the provider and configure MX (mail exchange) records with your domain registrar—the service will provide instructions for this.

Step 3: If you’re changing email providers as part of this process, you’ll need to configure Mail—or whatever email client you’re using—to connect to your new email account with the login credentials you set up. That’s not hard, but being able to send email that comes from your custom address can require some effort with the free email providers. Gmail provides instructions, and others that support this feature will as well. Unfortunately, iCloud won’t let you send email using a custom address.

Step 4: If you’re moving to a new email provider, you’ll need to forward your mail from your old provider to your new custom address. Most email providers and ISPs have a screen somewhere in the account settings of their Web sites that lets you enter a forwarding address.

Step 5: Tell your family, friends, and colleagues about your new email address, and update mailing lists and accounts at sites like Amazon that send you email. The forwarding you set up in the previous step will ensure you don’t miss anything during the transition, but remember that if you cancel your old ISP account, that forwarding may end immediately, so it’s important to start the process well in advance.

The details will vary depending on your choice of domain registrar and email provider, so again, if you would like additional recommendations or assistance in setting all this up, just let us know.


Social Media: Setting up a custom email address with your own domain isn’t that hard or expensive, and it gives you independence from your ISP, employer, or the sketchy email provider you signed up with after college. Here’s how you can switch.

iCloud Services Being Wonky? Check Apple’s System Status Page

Many Apple users rely on mac.com, me.com, or icloud.com email addresses, along with plenty of other iCloud-related services. So if you can’t send or receive email, if photos aren’t transferring via iCloud Photo Library, or if some other iCloud-related service isn’t responding, the first thing to do is check Apple’s System Status page. It’s updated every minute, and if it shows that the associated Apple service is having problems, you know to sit tight until things come back up. If everything is green, you’ll have to look elsewhere for a solution—or get in touch with us.