Brands are scrambling to secure their own top-level Internet domains before the Thursday deadline for completing applications.
The new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) are a controversial proposal by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which governs domain names on the Internet, to vastly expand the number of top-level domains beyond the familiar .com, .net, .org, to include a wide variety of alternatives. Under the proposal, companies would be able to secure their own brands as gTLDs, and other gTLDs could be generic words.
Proponents of the plan say it will simplify naming on the Internet and vastly improve branding opportunities. Opponents say the process -- with a $180,000 application fee -- is a ripoff. The CMO Site did an overview of the pluses and minuses for brands: Between .ROCK & .HARDPLACE: New Domains Mean Tough Choices. For background information on the program, see the ICANN New gTLD site.
As of last week, some 839 organizations had started the application process.
Observers differed on the significance of the number. Domain Name Wire exclaimed, “There were a whopping 839 registered users.” WebProNews was less impressed. “The organization said that there were only 839 registered users in the application system.”
The initial application phase for new gTLDs ended on March 29. Applications have to be completed by April 12.
While ICANN won’t yet reveal the names of the applicants, a few organizations have stepped forward, including .canon, .hitachi, .deloitte, and .sas.
New York City is applying for the .nyc TLD, and expects to sell subdomains for a minimum $3.6 million, with additional revenues for advertising.
Australia’s ARI Registry Services will apply for the .melbourne , .sydney, and .arab domains.
The UK government gave the go-ahead for the nonprofit Dot Scot Registry to apply for a .scot domain.
Dotgay LLC will register the .gay TLD and plans to donate two-thirds of the profits from sale of .gay domains to nonprofit LGBT organizations.
The battle for control of the namespaces will be joined early. A company called name.space Inc. claims to hold rights to 482 generic TLDs, including .gay, .nyc, and .green. It plans to participate in the ICANN process.
ICANN’s Trademark Clearinghouse provides a set of protections for brand identity. Brand managers need to pay attention to the process to make sure their brands are protected, even if they're not registering for the new domains.
The new gTLDs offer the promise of greater brand awareness, say advocates.
The ICANN communications team believes that the applicants have great stories, and so communications manager, Michele Jourdan, has asked applicants to submit videos that tell those stories. ICANN uses its New gTLD Facebook page and its Twitter account -- @NewgTLDsICANN and the #NewgTLDs hashtag -- to provide news and support for the applicants.
The new gTLDs support brand credibility, says Roland LaPlante, CMO of global registry service provider Afilias. The cost and ongoing demands of the new domain process will dissuade spammers and scammers, leading to greater consumer confidence in the names.
But will the gTLDs improve search ranking? Ari Registry Services CEO Adrian Kinderis claimed in a blog, New top-level domains to trump .com in Google search results, that the new TLDs will lead to better search results. Google’s Matt Cutts told his Google+ followers that a brand won’t get any special SEO juice solely as the result of the new domains. The new sites require quality content that generates customer engagement, the same as it’s always been. Kinderis responded, mostly agreeing with Cutts, but still claiming that a new name brings a definable benefit. My money’s on Cutts.
We won’t be seeing Websites with the new names until early 2013. Between now and then, marketers will initially be focusing on defensive measures by protecting their brands and trademarks. Later on, new ways to define and promote the brands will develop. It’ll be an interesting year. Have fun.
Will the new gTLDs enhance marketing, or are they a boondoggle? Are you applying to get one or more? Let us know.
Between .ROCK & .HARDPLACE: New Domains Mean Tough Choices
What Marketers Need to Know About the New Top-Level Domains
Plan for New Internet Domains Attracts Enemies
— Karl Hakkarainen is an independent consultant who works with organizations and professionals in healthcare, law, education, and social services, for whom marketing is a novel and somewhat suspect venture.