If you’re not already aware, for several years now ICANN (the organisation that controls domain names on the web) has had plans to allow organisations to register new top-level domains.  (A top level domain exists at the highest level in the domain naming hierarchy – think of it as the last part of the URL. So .com, .net, .biz and .uk are examples.)

Well, today is the day that the floodgates open – companies can now apply to register for .anything. This could be their brand name or something more generic, such as a product or category.

So, in future, we could end up with URLs such as http://eat.walkers.crisps or http://wear.superdry

No longer will the internet just be restricted to 20 or so top-level domains – ICANN’s new rules just created an explosion of potential domains!

Is this good or bad?

There are some who believe this will give brands greater control over their online presence – and prevent potential phishing or fake sites popping up. Would you be more reassured that you were on NatWest’s website if the URL was http://my.natwest ?

Personally, I believe this move will predominantly create consumer confusion. What’s the benefit to the consumer? At the moment, there are conventions that help consumers navigate the web – typically URLs are <brand name>.com or (here in the UK) <brand name>.co.uk.  With the new ICANN proposals, more guessing will be needed –  is a brand’s site at <brand name>.com or <something>.<brand name> or even <brand name>.<product> or <brand name>.<category>?

Apply now

With a hefty price tag ($185,000) and a bunch of risks and responsibilities of registering one, time will tell whether the take-up is significant. A few companies such as Canon have already come out & said they’ll register their own brand names as new top-level domains.

If you want yours, get your checkbook out and get your application form in before 12th April when applications close.  For more information, head on over to the new ICANN gTLD website where there’s a useful video which explains how it all works.

Your thoughts?

Good or bad for the internet? A new gold-rush? Or something that’ll never catch on? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

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About the author

Matt Hardy, Digital Director & Joint MD
Matt's interest in the web started way back in 1997. Long before the dot-com boom & bust. Long before we talked about 'digital'. Since then he's been an avid digital technologist & early adopter. With a background in software engineering & a passion for creativity, that's no surprise. Matt joined the agency in 1998 and since then as Digital Director has been instrumental in building the agency's digital capability. In April 2011 he split his role to also become Joint MD. In his spare time he loves being with his wife & 4 daughters. You can follow him through his many social profiles.