Starting this year, more than 1,300 new domains will be created, meaning that millions of more website names will become available. In today’s post, we’ll tell you what’s happening, how it’s happening, and why you might want to pay attention.
What is a gTLD?
A domain name is the main component of a web-site address: the yahoo in www.yahoo.com, the compumatik in www.compumatik.com. It’s a unique identifier “that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority, or control on the internet” (Wikipedia). A top-level domain (TLD) is the letters that come after the domain name: the .com, .ca, .org, etc…
In the beginning, there were only 4 TLDs: .gov, .edu, .mil, and .com. They were created by the original creators of the internet in order to identify the main players involved in the early days: Governments, educational institutions, and the military. The fourth TLD (.com) was added as something of an afterthought, to group the few and disparate private interests getting involved.
Unique country codes (.ca, .fr, .qc.ca) were added later, but it wasn’t until 2000 that the first true expansion of TLDs occurred. Known as generic top-level domains (gTLDs), no one knew how much interest .biz and .info would generate, and there was significant debate over whether it was worth doing at all.
“A generic top-level domain (gTLD) is one of the categories of top-level domains (TLDs) maintained by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) for use in the Domain Name System of the Internet. It is visible to Internet users as the suffix at the end of a domain name.” (Wikipedia)
The first gTLDs sparked huge interest, and millions of new domains were eventually registered, though it’s not clear if there was any real value to the exercise. In any case, for the first time since 2000, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is about to release new gTLDs: 1,300 of them, in fact, over the next few years.
How are these new domains being created?
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is a non-profit organization, responsible for managing and maintaining the system that lets users and machines navigate the internet.
ICANN is a nonprofit organization that coordinates the Internet's global domain name system.
ICANN has allowed the general public to apply to buy new TLDs. Individuals, groups, and companies could apply to establish – and acquire the rights to – any new TLD they wanted. Each acquisition cost $185,000, and the owner would then have the rights to do whatever they wanted with the top-level domain. The NPR program Planet Money featured a great example of this (see the link at the end of this article):
The .wed TLD was bought by a single individual, a former IT contractor, using savings, retirement money, and some loans from her family. She is targeting couples getting married who want to create unique and personal wedding web-sites. She’ll be selling .wed domains just like any other domain, with a few special rules:
- To begin with, .wed domains are a little more expensive than regular domains, about $70/year compared to around $10/year for a regular domain.
- While most domains are bought for the long-term, the owner wants to encourage turnover in .wed domains, giving more couples access to popular names over the year. In order to do this, .wed domains will cost $70/year for 2 years, but cost $30,000 for the third year.
(Why) Should you care?
There are a number of reasons you might want care about new gTLDs:
- Have you been trying to get a specific domain name for a while, but it’s occupied? You now have more options for finding your company name on an unoccupied domain. Case in point: I used to work with a carpooling startup called WeRoll. Unfortunately, weroll.com was owned by a company that manufactures castors, and wasn’t interested in selling it. We owned weroll.net and weroll.ca. They weren't quite catchy enough for us, but weroll.cars, or weroll.rides might be.
- You also have options to get creative with your marketing. For instance, our website is currently compumatik.com, but we might now buy montrealcomputer.guru. Lenscrafters might buy better.vision. Our PR firm (if we had one) might set up www.weknow.marketing.
- Some groups are looking at the expansion as an increased burden or threat. You put a lot of time, effort, and expense into building and managing a brand, and that includes your website and domain. Now, there are going to be 1,3000 more TLDs on which to protect your brand. Take MacDonald’s as an example: One of the new TLDs being release is .menu, so if I was to buy www.macdonalds.menu before they did, I could put anything there I wanted. Even if you don’t see this as an important marketing opportunity for oyur company, you should give some thought to whether it represents an important threat, and whether there are defensive reasons to consider purchasing some of these new domains.
Some companies can’t wait for these new TLDs to be released. Some groups clearly think there’s an opportunity: GoDaddy and other domain registrars are investing huge sums of money in buying as many as they can get their hands on, while some individuals are scraping together their life savings to take a chance on what they see as the next gold rush.
Should you care? It depends on your company, your perspective, your marketing and web strategies, and more. If you do care, or you want to know more, feel free to get in touch. We can help you decide whether this is important for you, and if you want to register a few new domains, we can help with that too.
Some of the gTLDs you’re most likely to care about:
- Professionals: .accountants, .dentist, .doctor, .engineering, .lawyer, .legal
- Industries: .car, .construction, .diamonds, .insurance,, .management
- Services : .expert, .online, .systems
Some of our favourites :
- .hot (as in, www.liohnis.hot)
- .kosher (as in, www.order-in.kosher)
- .sucks (as in, www.yourcompetitor.sucks)
- .wtf (as in, www.titanicwontheoscarforbestfilm.wtf)
- NPR’s Planet Money podcast: Episode 532: The Wild West Of The Internet http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2014/04/16/303735386/episode-532-the-wild-west-of-the-internet “Today on the show, what happens when you just create a whole bunch of real estate out of nowhere? We meet some of the new land barons with big dreams. And a guy who worries it's just going to be a big mess.”
- Complete list of new gTLDs: http://www.newtldlist.com/, “The complete list of all applied for new TLDs”
- Domain gold rush: Why your company needs to speak Chinese online, http://venturebeat.com/2014/04/26/domain-gold-rush-why-your-company-needs-to-speak-chinese-online/, “Lesser discussed in the U.S. are Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs). These are domain names written in languages that allow users to navigate the Internet without using English. 116 IDNs were applied for, 73 of which were Chinese character TLDs.”