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New Domains Make .com Irrelevant

January 24, 2012

As many have undoubtedly heard, ICANN has decided to open the domain name floodgates by allowing the registration of all kinds of new “top level domains” (TLDs). Rather than having just .com, .org, .net, the various country TLDs, and the very small number of newer TLDs like .mobi, people will be able to register domain names that could be anything from .cars to .planes to .crazy.

I do not know how things will turn out, but I do see a few interesting things ahead.

First, there will definitely be those abusing trademarks. I can already imagine that various names like pepsi.cola or bmw.cars or apple.core might be registered by individuals or companies that do not own the rights to those names. A company is certainly not going to want to manage a portfolio of hundreds or thousands of domain names just to ensure that its name is not misused. Unfortunately, this might prove to be a real challenge unless ICANN sets some strict policies that are favorable to trademark holders. (Yes, they have policies now, but I fear they will be insufficient when there are so many battlefronts.)

Why even bother with so many new TLDs? Sure, the .com namespace is very crowded. It’s extremely hard to find a .com domain name. Even so, what will be a good name in a sea of countless TLDs? If you create a web site called “acorn”, is there value in using the domain name acorn.misfire or acorn.toad? If those names are acceptable, then one would think acorn.biz is likewise a reasonable option, yet I see very few companies using .biz. People go out of their way to create silly .com names to avoid use of .biz. How about use of subdomains? I suspect there are domain owners that would be delighted to transform a good .com name into one that can serve as the parent domain for businesses, blogs, etc. Just imagine if owners of names like blogs.com, autos.com, news.com, etc. re-purposed their domains to serve vertical industries. Perhaps a business that fits no particular name might just pick something generic like acorn.gc.com.

An interesting consequence of the expansion of the TLD namespace is that search engines will become even more important. No longer will a person be able to just remember a name like “youtube” and have some level of assurance that the site is “youtube.com”. Going forward, the new GeeWow site might be anywhere. It might be GeeWow.quint. Now, who could have possibly remembered that? If people started using sub-domains, it might be GeeWow.qt.com. With so many TLDs and the possibility of using sub-domains, one will become even more reliant on search engines to help us find information. I suspect we will actually start to see less use of the address bar on browsers and more use of search engines.

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Paul E. Jones

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