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ICANN, the private, non-profit governing body that oversees, amongst other things, the domain name system, is mulling a plan that would accelerate the introduction of hundreds of new top-level domains (TLDs).

Under the plan, companies and organizations wanting to run their own TLD may be able to express interest in doing so as early as the middle of this year.

The plan has sparked controversy for an obvious reason: the introduction of hundreds of new TLDs would be a nightmare for businesses.

Right now, businesses have to protect their trademarks across a handful of TLDs (.com, .net, etc.) and, in many cases, country-code domains (.co.uk, .es, etc.). But if ICANN opens the floodgates to new TLDs, businesses will find themselves having to defend their trademarks from cybersquatters across a potentially unlimited hodgepodge of them (think everything from .football to .cooking).

For this reason, major corporations and their legal representatives have been fighting to ensure that if ICANN proceeds, it makes sure that the new TLDs are implemented in such a way that respects their intellectual property rights. And that doesn't require these corporations to shell out big bucks buying thousands of new domain names. Unfortunately, any measures ICANN takes to protect big corporations aren't likely to benefit smaller businesses. They will have to decide whether or not it's worth trying to defend their names.

For businesses in general, it's unlikely that the new TLDs will solve the "there aren't any more good domains available" problem. Sure, if you sell chairs, for instance, chairs.com is already taken. But being able to register chairs.discount or even cheap.chairs isn't likely to be much of a consolation. .com will likely always be king because it's top of mind with consumers. And even though Google's Matt Cutts has previously stated that Google doesn't give .com more weight, the fact that .com is enthroned means that top SERPs for popular keywords are almost always filled with websites residing at .com.

For consumers, hundreds of new TLDs will probably go unnoticed for the most part. I can hardly remember the last website I visited that sported a .biz or .info TLD. But new TLDs could help scammers take advantage of consumers. Some, for instance, might be tricked by a phishing website at, hypothetically, www.hsbc.savings. That in turn creates yet another headache for businesses: dealing with the possibility that new TLDs will be used to con their customers.

At the end of the day, the only party that will really benefit from hundreds of new TLDs is ICANN, which will rake in millions of dollars from companies and organizations wanting to run their own TLDs. Right now, some say there are already hundreds of likely bidders for new TLDs.

Unfortunately, in this case, what's good for ICANN is not good for the internet.

Photo credit: rangesoss via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 18 January, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2407 more posts from this author

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Michele

Patricio

Your article overlooks some facts that are highly relevant

There are currently over 250 domain extensions.

For starters, many of the big corporates want to start their own TLDs. One or two of them are already on the record as being interested in doing so.

The entire "defence" argument is moot.

Paul Stahura, who founded eNom, did some analysis on this recently:

http://www.circleid.com/posts/20090202_analysis_domain_names_registered_new_gtlds/

TM holders aren't protecting themselves in the existing TLDs, so why would they do it if there were a hundred new TLDs?

Why would anyone want to "squat" their names in totally unrelated name spaces?

Nike would obviously want to register nike.shoes, for example, but what use would nike.beer be to them?

The launch of new TLDs should be seen as an opportunity and not as a threat

Regards

Michele

MD, Blacknight,

over 6 years ago

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Antony Van Couvering

Patricio,

You should make a distinction between "businesses" (the kind you and I have) and "big businesses" (the kind that own thousands of trademarks and have dedicated legal departments). For the latter, it will cost more in policing -- sorry, that's the price of choice and competition for everyone else.

For our kind of business, new top-level domains will (mostly) be a huge benefit:

1. With more choice, the price of .com names in the aftermarket will go down.  Whether you like the new extensions or not, your next domain name will be cheaper than the one you just paid $5000 for in the aftermarket, because it was the only good one you could find.

2. The top-level domain space will begin to resemble the real world, and top-level domains will be meaningful. For instance, hotels.nyc will pretty clearly signal that behind the name is a site about hotels in New York City.   As you note, Google doesn't pay any attention to top-level domains currently.  That's because, except for the geographic meanings of ccTLDs, they are meaningless.   But when hotels.nyc means "hotels in New York City" Google *will* pay attention.  I think there are going to be significant SEO benefits that come from new TLDs.

3. The "more choice" argument you dismiss is actually very pertinent.  You say, ".com will likely always be king because it's top of mind with consumers."  That may be true in the U.S., but it's not the case elsewhere.  In the UK, co.uk is "top of mind."  In Germany, it's .de.  Consumer behavior changes very quickly based on convenience and functionality.  Consider the progression - 78s, 45s, 33 rpm vinyl records; 8-track tapes; cassette tapes; CDs; MP3s.  Some of these firmly established music playback technologies, accepted by all the world's retailers and supported by massive manufacturing of devices to play them, lasted just a few years before the next one took over.  The switching cost for these is much less than for a personal domain name.

Overall, new top-level domains are a boon to small businesses and personal domain name owners - mostly.

Why mostly?  Because some people have invested in overpriced .com domain names in the aftermarket and new top-level domains will devalue their investment. 

For instance, how much did you pay for econsultancy.com?

Regards,

Antony Van Couvering

over 6 years ago

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Davdid J Castello

Excellent article, Patricio.  No matter what anyone says now to the contrary your words will prove to be prophetic.

Best,
David J Castello
Castello Cities Internet Network, Inc.

over 6 years ago

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Arnab Sen

Completely disagree. New TLDs will address the serious shortage of addresses for businesses and organizations on the net.

I don't think this will increase opportunities for phishing - even without these new TLDs I get phishing mails in gamil from impostors of all the banks I use and many I don't use. And the banks I use (say Standard Chartered and HSBC) have taken steps to alert me and all their customers against ALL phishing mails. So even if I were to get 10 phishing mails a day from dot bank or dot whatever the hell, I know what to do about it, and chances are it'll land in my spam filter anyways.

Protecting one's property rights is also a non-issue. As Michele has pointed out in her comment above, why would Nike be bothered about a squatter in nike.beer?

In fact, in a recent study I did for a TLD major, an intelligent respondent who runs a non-profit told us that more geo-specific TLDs would generate greater demand for TLDs in general, or even web presence in general. Think of the billions of mom-and-pop-store.smalltown possible in the real world.

It's good for the net, good for the TLD business and good for ICANN.

over 6 years ago

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Neale Gilhooley

This looks like a free-for-all charter for spammers and scammers that could take years to sort out.  Which real bona fide Client or Agency is pushing for this?  You can still create and register good domain names by being creative and you can also buy domains, many are really peanuts, so why the need to create the possibility of having so many variants and some will be so hard to spot and even harder to verify.  So who really needs this? Or have ICANN (the private, non-profit governing body) just got an eye for more revenue and even more complexity in the market for them to oversee.

I could not agree more with the last line of this article.. "Unfortunately, in this case, what's good for ICANN is not good for the internet"

over 6 years ago

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Enigma

I were to get 10 phishing mails a day from dot bank or dot whatever the hell, I know what to do about it, and chances are it'll land in my spam filter anyways, You can still create and register good domain names by being creative and you can also buy domains, many are really peanuts, so why the need to create the possibility of having so many variants and some will be so hard to spot and even harder to verify.

over 6 years ago

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Calvin

Suppose a business based on a highstreet. If people have been referred to this business and need to look up your location information, where would they go? Telephone directories are quite obsolete. More and more do people turn to the internet to look up information about businesses( For example the name of Night Clubs www.nightlifeblues.comwill search by name) – contact information, profile as well as online shopping services. Regardless of how “advanced” your use for a domain name may be, a domain name is going to be an essential commodity for any business.

over 6 years ago

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SEO Traffic Spider

Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

about 6 years ago

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Cooking Games

I agree that new TLDs will be a headace for everyone. Just by using a search angine right now we can find a lot of junkie sites. Getting free traffic just because a similar name or popular frace on their name.  We don't need anymore spam like this.

almost 6 years ago

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Раскрутка сайта

Your article overlooks some facts that are highly relevant

There are currently over 250 domain extensions.

For starters, many of the big corporates want to start their own TLDs. One or two of them are already on the record as being interested in doing so.

The entire "defence" argument is moot.

over 5 years ago

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