The Good, Bad (and Ugly?) Side of ICANN’s New Top Level Domains: Will They Break or Organize the Web

After a 3 long year process (long for those who wanted to own a new domain extension) ICANN officially approved a “historic change to internet domain name system”, which will allow companies and organizations to create broad generic strings such as .eco, .hotel or .shop. Not only that, some companies will turn their own brands into Internet domain extensions: .apple or .android anyone?

This means that the increase in the number of gTLDs (domain extensions) will potentially change the way people find information on the web and how businesses plan and structure their online presence.

As per ICANN’s press release:

New domain extensions will change the way people find information on the Internet and how businesses plan and structure their online presence. Internet address names will be able to end with almost any word in any language, offering organizations around the world the opportunity to market their brand, products, community or cause in new and innovative ways.

ICANN will soon begin a global campaign to tell the world about this dramatic change in Internet names and to raise awareness of the opportunities afforded by new gTLDs.

The big change is announced to happen at the end of 2012. but we probably won’t see new extensions before 2014.

“Organizing” the Internet

This is definitely the hot topic of the day and the domain world is in the spotlight again. The idea is to organize the Internet, to put it in categories, so that you can easily find what you want, and be sure it’s the right thing. I suppose there will have to be some kind of a directory to enable you to find what you need on a certain extension.

How often do you type-in name of the domain in the browser? Or you just Google what you need? From the organization’s perspective we would have to wait for browsers or the whole concept of Internet to adjust to this, to enable the best possible, and the safest model of search. I would like to see Google commenting on this issue, and adjusting to the change. But is it a change at all?  What if consumers react to the change in the same way they reacted to past changes?

The Right Content on the Right Domain?

What would be interesting for me is something like .eco or .green as you would know that everything on that domain extension is ecologically acceptable (Who will determine which one is the right one?). Would I let my kids browse Internet and type-in, or www.something.fam (for family) because websites on those domains should be kid-safe? Specific kinds of domains imply certain content but who can guarantee that some cybersquater wouldn’t do something else with the domain If not, do the domain extensions solve the organization problem?

My concern is that nobody can trace if the content on a .eco or .kids website fits the domain, except doing it manually. At least not yet. The .xxx domain was approved back in March, which I find a really good move. You know exactly what you can find there. And that is “safe”. But you can never be sure what you can find on any other domain, .eco, .green, .fam, or .kids. One of ICANN’s foundational principles has been to promote competition in the domain name marketplace while ensuring Internet security and stability. This might endanger that goal.

.Brand the Web

On the other side it seems that most of the applicants are big brands, like Canon, Deliotte, Hitachi, Unicef, trying to secure their brands as a domain extension. The other big group are geo domains like .paris, berlin, nyc. This will definitely make your search easier. But how many companies can pay $185.000 to have their own domain extension? And how many cities can make that business feasible? What about those who can’t?

My other big concern as a domain/web site owner would also be: what if I have a great business website on a super-cool nTLD and that TLD seizes to exist, because the company holding it is not profitable? It can happen. In 2007. in a quarterly report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission one of the domain holders (registry) said:

Management does not think the company can fund its operations beyond this month unless it receives more money.

….Some domains fell from 200.000 domain registrations to less then 30.000, which is highly risky if you are a domain owner.

One .Step Forward

Don’t get me wrong. I personally like the idea since I’m into organizing things. Having more people know a world where a .com isn’t their only option and they can get a .me is good for business. As someone working in the domain industry and loving it I wish those people starting the new domain businesses lots of luck. When we were at the beginning with .me I have been asked many times about how safe it is to register a domain on .me, as it is fairly new, and it’s a domain of a country and so on. It was a very difficult question, as there was actually no proof. Today nobody asks that anymore. More then half of a million of registered domains, big brands like WordPress, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Time, using .me, just simply show the quality and bright future. Others will need some time, hard work and lots of luck to get that too. This will definitely change the digital world. But there are still many things to be defined, especially in terms of trademark issues, safe content and safe business…oh, yes, and search!


Natasa Djukanovic

Natasa Djukanovic is Chief Marketing Officer of .ME Registry. Her interests include domain industry development, Internet governance, and virtual brand-building. Natasa is an occasional speaker at domain conferences and she was featured in Financial Times Business Diary.

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