Perhaps you’ve read the news articles about how a flood of new top-level domains — from .bike to .watch — are promising to revolutionize the Internet. And maybe you’ve also heard that if you don’t register your company on these new domains, you’ll be in danger of missing out, just like you may have missed out on the .com land rush years ago.
Before you venture out into this virtual land grab, invest the time to understand exactly what’s happening to the domain name system and where the long-term opportunities are. This article will give you a high-level overview.
Welcome to the next wave of gTLDs
Historically there were only a handful of generic top-level domains (gTLDs) — domains like .net, .org, and, of course, the immensely popular .com. Country code TLDs are also quite popular, such as .de, .fr and .jp — and I’m a particular fan of global organizations making full use of them.
But for the past decade ICANN has looked for ways to open up the top-level domain space to even more names, and in more languages. The new gTLD program is the result of this work, and I recommend visiting the program website at http://newgtlds.icann.org.
The first wave is rolling in
More than 1,200 gTLDs have been applied for so far. You can check the status of each domain online (https://gtldresult.icann.org/application-result/applicationstatus) and learn more about what each applicant plans to do with it. In many cases, applicants are planning to register their brand names for internal uses, such as KPMG and Hermes. But many applicants are registering domains with the hopes of creating a popular and lucrative new source of revenue.
So far, more than 125 domain names have been delegated, including such names as:
- онлайн (online)
- 公司 (company)
To give you some context, ICANN has, in approving this first wave of domains, delegated more top-level domains than in the previous 25 years. In other words, what’s happening right now is truly unprecedented.
Keep an eye out for your vertical
If you’re a bike retailer, you might see great value in registering a .bike domain. Or your business might benefit from registering vertical-specific domains such as Tools, Lighting, or Gallery. Keep in mind that only a few of these domains are currently available for registration, so check with your registrar to see what’s new and what’s coming. GoDaddy is already marketing the first batch of available domains, as seen here:
The benefits from registering a vertical-specific domain is that you might perform better in search engines, and it’s also not a bad idea for protecting your brand name. And the latter reason is why so many domain registrars are excited by these new domains — knowing that companies will register their brands simply as a means of protection.
My feeling is that if you missed out on getting that .com domain you’ve always coveted, a vertical-specific domain might be a great fallback plan.
Consider your customer’s language
Some of these new gTLDs are in different scripts and languages, and I’m particularly bullish about these domains.
Imagine if, every time you wanted to visit a website, you were expected to type in letters from a foreign language, or worse, an entirely foreign script, such as Arabic, Cyrillic, or Chinese.
For more than a billion people, this is how they experience the Internet today. But the advent of local-language TLDs may go a long way in making the Internet more user friendly for billions of people.
Google is already marketing its new Japanese TLD to Japanese web users. The TLD ( みんな) stands for “everyone” and is marketed as a new home page address that users can register to create truly local — and Japanese-specific — web addresses.
There are many people who don’t believe that we need any more TLDs — that this effort will only benefit the registrars in the long run. And while there is plenty of merit to this argument, I believe a good number of these new TLDs will be valuable not only to the applicants, but to end users, particularly the non-Latin script domains. So despite the naysayers, do not simply dismiss gTLDs as a marketing ploy. The opening up of the domain name system is going to foster not only a new wave of domain names, but also new companies, business models, innovations, and opportunities.