After years of deliberation and discussion, ICANN, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, voted to launch an initiative that will effectively allow for an unlimited number of Top Level Domains, or TLDs. As of right now, 22 TLDs exist — with .com, .net and .org the most recognizable — as well as nearly 300 country specific domains, such as .uk, .tv and .ly.
To call this announcement historic is an understatement.
Since inception, ICANN knew its TLDs were abstract organizers at best. Internet users have come to know no difference between .com, .net and .org. So if these TLDs hold new meaning, why not open the door further, allowing for more abstraction and the possibility of better organization at the same time?
But that doesn’t mean you should rush out and apply for .YourCompany. Or even .CommonNoun. First, there’s the fact that you have to pony up $185,000 just to apply. Not accepted? No refund. Then consider that this isn’t the same as registering a domain name. Because you aren’t registering a domain name. You’re applying to administer, manage, maintain and run a TLD. That is a serious technological hurdle to overcome. You’ll need more than a webmaster and a couple of DBAs to handle this. (Imagine operating the TLD “.org” as is today and the responsibilities attached.) This is an investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars, annually. And if you can’t prove to ICANN that you’re technologically ready for the challenge, you won’t be accepted.
The first round of new TLDs could be available by July of 2012. In theory. Assuming the entertainment industry or other groups can’t get an injunction to stop this from happening.
Immediate recommended actions
None. But if you feel the need to do something, read the proposed 300+ page gTLD Applicant Guidebook from ICANN here: http://bit.ly/9eVyyx
Future recommended actions
- Keep alert. Once someone applies to own a TLD, a 5-month “evaluation process” begins. It’s open to public comments, and is when you need to have your lawyers looking out for your registered marks. All will be posted on ICANN.org.
- Look for opportunities. Right now, .com is the hot TLD. But maybe a new and more specific domain will make sense? If you sell eco-friendly products, wouldn’t you want to be in .green?
- Prepare for post-scarcity. Only having 22 TLDs keeps scarcity — and prices — for domains high. Once thousands are available, the market will change. If you’re contemplating a domain name purchase right now, reconsider. It could be much cheaper — or free — in a year. Cybersquatters are about to be out of business.
- Redouble your SEO efforts. It will take some time, but users will come to rely less on .com. That means people will turn to searching to find things even more often than they do today.
- Stay tuned. As we learn more about what this means, we’ll keep you posted.