If you haven’t already heard about new generic Top-Level Domains (or gTLD) then you might be excused for thinking it’s of no interest to you.
Current top-level domain names (TLD) are restricted to the known extensions such as .com, .net and .org. Some additional extensions like .biz and .info were later introduced, but these have not gained widespread adoption for reasons I’ll go into a little later.
For the uninitiated, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is the authority responsible for managing global Internet domain names. They have been under pressure to expand (or in my view deregulate) the domain name registry market and as a result are accepting applications for what they call ‘new’ generic Top-Level Domains (gTLD).
A new gTLD can be pretty much anything. For example, you might want to start up your own Internet registry for farmers, offering domain names with the .farm extension. To achieve this you pay a hefty $185,000 evaluation fee to ICANN, submit your application and eventually you might end up as the official owner of the .farm registry. ICANN estimates that they may issue up to 1,000 of these new gTLD extensions in a year.
The general concept is that since the amount of meaningful names in the popular .com namespace is finite, introducing new gTLDs will expand the pool of available names. The theory being that someone like Apple Farm Co then has a chance of registering a name like apple.farm for their business.
In practice however all that happens is that the owner of the existing .com variant uses their trademark ownership rights to secure ‘their’ name via a sunrise registration period and so most of the names are taken before the registry even opens its doors for public registrations.
The introduction of .biz and .info is a perfect example of this. The .com owner doesn’t want or need a new gTLD variant of their name, but they are compelled to purchase it as a defensive registration. The end result is more spend for no commercial benefit and no appreciable increase in the available name space.
So how will these new gTLDs improve the situation? I’m stumped. Ever since ICANN announced the new gTLD program, I have been trying to think of a compelling use case for them.
Faced with the myriad of confusing and unfamiliar new gTLDs and concerned at the risks of online fraud, end-users will seek refuge in the provenance of .com. All this will do is reinforce the value of the traditional domain name extensions.
.com remains the undisputed domain heavyweight and I don’t see that situation changing any time soon. The only obvious winners in the gTLD game will be ICANN, registrars and consultants out to persuade you to register even more domain names you don’t need.