On June 26, decisions were made in Paris that will profoundly
change how the Internet looks in the future. For marketers, it opens up
a whole new world of possibilities and challenges.
ICANN, the international body that regulates domain naming, announced
their unanimous vote to open up restrictions on top level domains
(TLDs). Starting in 2009, it will be possible to apply to have just
about anything as a TLD.
So what does that mean for you?
- You are no longer restricted to the current 21 domain extensions like .com .net .org
- Brand names can be used as extensions. Think of .coke .nike .ebay
- You can more narrowly target geography. Imagine .london .nyc .hongkong
- Be more specific with what you offer. Appearing soon .sport .news .sex
- Extensions will not be restricted to 37 Roman characters. Watch out for .العربية .日本語 .Русский
and others are reporting that the applications for new TLDs will cost
$50,000 to $100,000, ICANN has said it will be “in the low six figure
dollar amounts,” according to Dr Paul Twomey, President and CEO of the
non-profit organization. The money raised will go to recouping the $20
million in costs for the proposals. “The costs of developing and
implementing this policy will be borne by the applicants,” Twomey said.
With the cost of an application fee, it is unlikely that individuals
will control new TLDs. What will prove interesting in the coming year
is how the generic names will come to be acquired and who will control
them. ICANN says
there are already consortiums forming to seek control of city-based
names. Who will own names like .sport? Well, anyone who’s got the money
and resources to seek it in an application. However, according to the BBC,
ICANN has said that if their arbitration process fails the extension
would go the “highest bidder” in an auction, which could create
unprecedented bidding wars.
Heads up if you manage a major brand. Don’t think that you have any
rights to your trademarked name as a TLD. ICANN has said that
trademarks are not automatically protected. However, there will be an
“objection-based mechanism” to hear trademark owners’ complaints. This
will open up a whole mess of trouble for some brands if other
well-funded entities are able to acquire their name as a domain
Some are saying this news is a non-starter, noting that recent
additions to TLDs like .info .mobi and .biz have failed to catch on in
mainstream usage, leaving .com to continue to dominate domain demands. VentureBeat
reports that these changes may threaten the domain speculators the most
if ICANN is sucessful in educating people and persuading them to use
the new extensions. Speculators rely on the “type-in” traffic generated
by people searching for generic terms ending in .com. This is how some
domain names can be auctioned off for millions of dollars, as ReadWriteWeb reminds us how business.com fetched $350 million in that way.
With the addition of non-English characters, ICANN predicts an
explosion in TLD applications from Asia, the Middle East, Eastern
Europe and Russia. For global brands, this means yet another area of
domain management that could represent millions of dollars in
applications, arbitration, lawyer’s fees and potential auction bidding
to secure names in strategic markets like China and India.
The question to marketers is, how much is too much to spend to
protect your brand name on the Internet in other markets? At what point
will the variety of naming possibilities become unmanageable for
companies? It is easy to think in the short-term and be convinced that
.com is the only term that carries clout. But, at this pivotal point in
the evolution of the Internet, will global brands be willing to gamble
their future on those three little letters?
This article originally appeared at Marketing Monster.
Adele McAlear is a Montreal-based marketer who loves social media and technology.
With 18 years marketing experience, she believes that social
media is only one driver in the marketing toolbox. She blogs at Marketing Monster.