January 2014 sees the first public releases of up to 1,400 new generic top-level domain names (gTLDs) such as .guru, .bike and .london, over the next few years, heralding the biggest change to the internet since the release of the original 22 domain suffixes (including .com and .org) in 1984. What does this mean for your business?
The larger brands have already been working to acquire new gTLDs
Amazon, Google and Microsoft have already moved in to buy both brand related gTLDs and more generic ones, which may not then be made available to the public. For instance there was an outcry when Amazon applied for .book and L’Oreal .hair. Most of the new gTLDs will be held by private commercial companies who will have the power to decide if they want to open up the extensions for general registration. 1&1 Internet are allowing users to pre-reserve soon to be released domain names – although, of course, they can’t guarantee you’ll get what you reserve – and GoDaddy are allowing the public to ‘watch’ the names they want.
What types of gTLDs will be released?
There will be three types of gTLD available. :
Closed – Brands and registered trademark holders are expected to acquire brand extension domain names to use for their own purposes which will not be available to anyone else.
Restricted – Some domains such as .nyc will only be open to applicants within a certain criteria i.e. being based in New York city.
Open – Available to the public on a first come, first served basis. Once the 60 day ‘sunrise’ period The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has allowed for trademark holders to buy gTLD names related to their brands is over, then registrar companies like Donuts Ltd will have a 30 day ‘landrush’ period to buy licences in order to operate each new gTLD.
“High quality content and links will still be major ranking influencers.”
Will search engines rank relevant gTLDs more highly?
Yes and no. While search engines do look at gTLDs as an indicator, it’s only one of the elements that influences ranking, as the .travel suffix (which has long been available but is largely ignored by the travel industry) proves. High quality content and links will, as before, be major ranking influencers. That’s good news for SMEs as they’re unlikely to be able or want to secure all the variations of gTLD that may be relevant.
Scepticism on how important gTLDs will be has been fuelled by the Microsoft 2012 survey which found that “users have learned to trust some domains over others” and that “users click on results from reputable domains even when more relevant search results are available”. With gTLDs, higher ranking is likely to be heavily related to consumer confidence.
What kinds of gTLDs will bring in more business?
There are some instances where the new gTLDs are likely to help businesses market themselves more effectively.
Geocentric gTLDs – gTLDs like .london or .boston will effectively location tag small businesses, aiding map search and helping to build business communities online.
Location credibility – If consumers learn to trust a certain gTLD it may open up new premium domain name possibilities. For instance security company Artemis has acquired .secure with a view to creating a trusted gTLD by checking the documentation of all applicants manually and requiring them to “agree to rigorous security policies that will strictly prevent the intentional use of .secure domains for malicious activity”. It is believed that hundreds of businesses have signed up to them including several leading banks.
Personalised online service – Big brands such as Barclays or BMW could create unlimited websites based on their brand-related gTLD, allowing them to interact with customers individually.
gTLDs with devoted search engines – There are already search engines that will only search for results with a specific gTLD. And Google already allows TLD specific searches within its advanced search function. This will have consequences especially for sector specific businesses if the trend takes off.
Are the new gTLDs for you?
In short, it’s well worth thinking carefully about whether and how your business might benefit from registering with one of the new gTLDs. It’s also worth checking that your brand doesn’t fall foul of one of the .sucks or .porn suffixes and that requests for resources on your private company network don’t end up (via misconfiguation or old software) querying public-facing DNS Root Servers and ‘colliding’ with the new .mail or .corp gTLDs. Of course they the new gTLDs will change the internet, perhaps making sector and geo specific searching much easier. Mass ‘dot com’ moves are unlikely though.