Top Level Domain name suffixes are facing big competition that could take place in the next year. Popular TLDs include .com, .net, and .org, and there are 15 others currently in use. Yet sometime in 2010 visitors might be swapping .com with “.google” or “.nike.”
According to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a nonprofit entity that oversees the Web address system, nearly anyone will have the potential to create a fully-customized domain name extension. These generic Top Level Domain names are the most significant modification to the TLD naming system yet, and they have many businesses and corporations in an uproar.
How It Will Work
In order for a company to receive a gTLD, they must submit an application in which ICANN will follow a set of guidelines, evaluating both the technical and financial capabilities of the applicant, the effect of the proposed gTLD, the possibility of consumer confusion, and the gTLD’s effects on Internet stability. The proposed suffix could consist of anything the customer wishes, so long as it’s between 1 and 63 characters.
However, in an effort to thwart cyber squatters from swallowing up popular extensions and help protect businesses from malicious buyers that could infringe on a company’s brands and trademarks, it’s proposed that a price of $185,000 up-front with a yearly recurring fee of $25,000 be imposed.
Why ICANN Supports gTLDs
The domain name extension suffix was made popular years ago when the Internet became a commercially viable way for people to interact. With few extensions for businesses to choose from, it was obvious that one would rise to the top, which we know today as .com. The popularity of the .com suffix is ubiquitous and carries more than 80 million registered domain names while .net and .org respectively have roughly 12 million and 7 million registered domain names according to ICANN’s “Registry Operator Monthly Reports” published in January.
In order to promote competition in the marketplace, ICANN feels the introduction of gTLDs will give businesses new and old a chance to gain footing on popular names currently held by the .com, .net, and .org extensions. That could mean increased competition, lower prices, and greater innovation. Its argument for introducing this new system is based on the fundamental principal that competition promotes consumer welfare and that everyone involved will benefit.
Why Business Fears gTLDs
Many in the business community feel that ICANN’s push for gTLDs is a form of extortion and that ICANN is looking to make more money off of new domain name extensions.
Not only do companies face the possibility of infringement on trademarks and the brand names they carry, but they’ll also be spending, in some cases, billions of dollars to defend their good names and buy up the nearly limitless possible extensions associated with their products’ marketing efforts. Also, the gTLD system is almost certain to cause bidding wars.
Another major concern with gTLDs is that they will only confuse consumers and leave businesses to pick up the slack for malicious users who infringe on trademarks, use similar logos, and use similar site layouts. Many believe malicious users will be able to trick consumers into giving up sensitive information.
And where does all this leave the small business owner? With such a high price tag on entry and the annual costs to maintain the custom domain name extension, they’ll be left behind.
The Marketing And Branding Potential Of gTLDs
There are some that believe the introduction of gTLDs will have a major impact on branding and marketing and will change how people and marketers use the Internet forever.
One cause for celebrating gTLDs is the opportunities companies will have in using clever, resourceful domain name extensions. The possibilities are endless. Imagine Nike using “.justdoit” or Subway using “.eatfresh.”
However, this isn’t the first time ICANN has introduced new TLDs. In fact, both .info and .biz were introduced in 2001 and have only attracted approximately 5 million and 2 million domain name users, respectively.
The future of marketing and branding on the Internet may lie in gTLDs, but many agree that the current system is sufficient and that .com will always be imbedded in the minds of consumers. How companies utilize customized domain name extensions and market them will be the tipping point for gTLDs.