The new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) are currently hitting the market and it is good business for the sellers. What is this all about and should the small business owner be bothered enough to invest?
In 2011 ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the organisation that runs the registry for domain names, announced a substantial change to the way in which domains would be named in future. This would be an extension to the availability of generic Top Level Domains from 22 to potentially an infinite number. A big leap you might agree.
It has taken a while for this decision to hit the market, but it is happening now and time for the business man/woman in the street to make a judgement on its worth.
The gTLD in a domain is the bit on the end, eg ‘.com’, ‘.co.uk’, ‘.net’ etc. By extending the number of these gTLDs, ICANN are in effect saying to the world – “just make one up and we will support you”. There is a catch of course and that is the minimum investment for each new gTLD is $185K (US) and there are lots of legal and operational obligations that come with the privilege.
We can expect that major brand owners will spend the money to make sure their brands are secured, but what of other more general words such as ‘internet’, or ‘shop’, or ‘blog’? These other gTLDs will be secured by registrars and sold to a bemused business community for a range of prices and for a range of reasons.
For certain new ventures these domains with these new gTLDs will make sense, but for existing businesses, with an existing website, are they worth splashing any hard earned cash on?
Just to give you a rough idea, here are some of the most recent gTLDs approved by ICANN this month (Nov 2013):
So, if we take the first one on the list, and we had a jewellery shop called “A Girl’s Best Friend”, we might be able to have a website address like: ‘www.agirlsbestfriend.diamonds’. If we took the second on the list and had a photography business called ‘Composed’, we could have a sub-domain of ‘beautifully’, so the full address would be http://beautifully.composed.photography. As you can see from these examples the possibilities are literally infinite and limited only by imagination … cost and availability.
There is a big ‘however’ to this, of course, and that is the awareness of the general public and the speed with which people will take up the new idea. New gTLDs have been released in the recent past such as ‘eu’ and ‘co’, but the take-up has been poor, because what is generally expected to be on the end of the domain is a ‘.com’ or (here in the UK) a ‘.co.uk’.
For an interim period at least, if you hand out an address like ‘beautifully.composed.photography’, you can expect people to type into the address bar ‘www.beautifully.composed.photography.com’ because this is what they would normally expect. The only positive view on this is that it is surprising how many people type domains into the Google search box instead of using the address bar. This is the get out of jail card.
The whole reason for using one of these new gTLDs is to create an imaginative and easy to remember address, but if, in employing the new address, we run the risk of confusing, or a mislaying a potential customer, then more thought may be required. In some ways it is like having a house address like ‘Dun Roamin Cottage’ instead of a house number. Fun and imaginative perhaps, but if the street has 100 houses in it and ‘Dun Roamin Cottage’ is in the middle, where do you begin looking if you have never been to the house before?
In the short term, ICANN are raking it in as the new gTLDs do appear to be selling like hot cakes. It is mainly the registrar companies that are snapping them up and reselling them on as secondary domains. Whether the price is ultimately worth paying only time will tell.
For those wishing to stake a claim in what might appear to be a new gold rush, go ahead, be my guest. But remember, in the original gold rush, the ones who made the most money were the guys selling picks and shovels.