While the debate over whether building city/community sites (at least in the US) should only ever be built on .coms might continue for some years to come, let me share one particular situation–though very rare it be—where doing so on an extension other than .com (and more particularly, on a .org) makes perfect sense:
Earlier this year, I picked up a city.org (San Marcos; just north of San Diego) for a 75,000 population city in California with excellent demographics, an extensive and broad-based commercial/ business community; and not one, but two top-rated colleges; including one of the highly desired Cal-State campus’.
In my pre-purchase analysis, I discovered via search on the city name that there were not one, but in fact no fewer than two of these identically-names cities in the US (plus a number in other countries); and that the .com version was already an operating city site for the Texas city with this same name.
What I realized is that it would be not just O.K. to build out such a .org, but actually smart to do so; for no less than these four reasons:
#1: Anyone visiting the .com Texas city site looking for information concerning the CA city; regardless of how they got there (type in or search engine); would quickly realize that the .com was clearly not the place they were looking for; leading them to click away and keep looking (this is where good SEO comes in) for the correct city (once I begin build-out; probably in 2009; I’ll request reciprocal homepage button/ links; me to the Texas version; Texas version to me; to further insure that any confused visitors will quickly find their way to the city they were looking for; whether CA or Texas).
#2: Relatedly; since this is not a big-name “touristy/vacation-type” city, most of the site visitors (who will be seeing the local/ area businesses’ ads) will be the actual residents of this California city, and not vacationers from outside the area. Because this is so, remembering that the “official” (it’s official if you make it so) city site is located at city.org and not city.com will not be anywhere near the problem it is/ would be with well-known, high-visibility cities like Palm Springs, Chicago, and San Diego.
#3: As others have pointed out as well, the .org is well-known (at least in the US) as the extension where you can expect to find usually useful, valuable, unbiased facts, information, and other content from government and (non-profit) organizations.
Additionally, many 100’s (1000’s?) of city/ town/ county governments throughout the US already use .org as their official “city hall” address.
These two deeply ingrained perceptions of .org sites fits right in with what you may/ likely want your city site to “feel” like to Internet visitors anyway; they already come with built-in trust and authority.
#4: While “experts” debate on whether this is true or not; and/or how much difference it makes in the search engine positions if it is; the .org sites may be receiving a greater weight than .com due to their “unbiased/ government” reality/ perception.
And while the .com version of this city could have cost perhaps as much as $30,000-50,000 or more even if they’d sell it to me (no; I didn’t ask), I was able to negotiate the .org down to less than $1,600 due to its–mistaken in this rare case—perceived great inferiority to the .com.
This approach can also work for popularly-named communities/ “area designators” like Apple Valley, Happy Valley, and Sun Valley (it’s a real eye opener how many valleys there are in the US with the same name); each of which valley (name) are readily able to support multiple extension city/ community sites, since each are in different states.
So; while in the overwhelming majority of cases the .com is clearly the way to go assuming one can afford it (though I agree that those that say that a successful, “can make a very nice living from it” city/ community site can be created on probably most any extension [ though I’d personally only use a .com or .org in the US ] ); a .org can still be a great, more affordable way to create something worth having…and someday selling.
Bottom line? If you can’t afford the cost of a city.com (or even if you can but want to buy cheap/ risk less), see if you can find yourself a nice (I’d recommend 25,000+ population; especially if it’s not a resort-type city) city.org where the city.com is a built out, in-use site…in some other state/ area/ community.
So; while they certainly remain the first choice if money is no object; expensive city.com sites are not the only path to successful city/ community website businesses.