22 top level domain names are currently in existence. Expect that number to skyrocket in 2012.
We are approaching a new age in marketing and sales potential on the Internet. ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has voted for any Internet extension in a Web address. Instead of .com, .edu, .org, .biz, etc, one can elect for any gTLD (general Top Level Domain), such as .money, .newyork, .starbucks, .bankofamerica, .food, etc. The possibilities are endless. This does come with some major caveats. You’ll have to apply for your gTLD and the application fee is $185,000, not to mention an additional yearly fee of $25,000. Only applications providing a legitimate claim for their new gTLD will be approved. ICANN has already received hundreds of applications, however the official application process doesn’t start until the beginning of next year.
Large corporations are already biting at the bit. These exorbitant fees allow mainly just top tier businesses with expendable incomes to incorporate this new web structuring into their business plans. Some will do it to protect their brands, while others will do it for competitive advantage.
Smaller businesses and those with more limited budgets will not be able to afford their own gTLD and with this price tag, most will probably assume that it’s not worth it, especially if they’re not interested in modifying their general business model. I imagine, however, that there will be some entrepreneurs and small businesses that will do what they need to do to be able to raise enough money to get their own gTLD. As I write this, money-making schemes and new business models are being thought up and generated all over the world because of ICANN’s game changing vote.
You can think about the business opportunities here, and the options are vast. It streamlines all kinds of marketing initiatives and custom service initiatives. By using a gTLD, large corporations can allow individuals to create their own interactive web presence under the guise of the larger corporation. Canon, with their gTLD, will allow individuals to have their own photo-sharing site; essentially allowing the pictures they take with their Canon camera to be automatically updated into their very own .canon web page, for viewing, sharing, printing, and downloading.
The world of Social Networking could change. Banking and investing, merchant and ecommerce models, content services, and online advertising could forever be altered.
This will also change security on the web. It will allow a lot more flexibility for corporations; they don’t have to worry about squatters potentially using a similar address to piggyback on their profits. Organizations can come up with multiple designations, hundreds, even thousands, under their gTLD and won’t have to worry about all of other similar names under the same .com TLD that are being used to encroach on their business. People still continue to buy up domain names and wait for someone to need them and then sell them for profit. This could potentially eliminate some of that.
Because of the price tag for initial entry and ongoing presence, it will be interesting to see who will be able to swing it and who will be able to make a sustainable business model out of it. Ultimately, this could very well lead to a new internet sub-bubble because of the possibilities with this new model. But until people try and fail we won’t know what those possibilities are. There will be people taking out a half million in loans to get their grand gTLD ideas off the ground, but a good majority of them will fail. We won’t know the true impact this will have for a number of years, that is until after we see how it’s been implemented successfully. There could very well be a dramatic swing in terms of how people access information, interact, and do business online.
This raises a lot of questions, too, both large and small. On the smaller end, will this affect Apple’s autocorrect? Will educational institutions elect for their own gTLD or will they continue to use .edu? Will a drastic change in general top level domain names confuse users or make web browsing easier and more streamlined?
Will people band together to create their own domain extension? There could be joint marketing efforts, business explorations, and new forms of community networking. For example, .farmersmarket could be an association of farmers. .realty—an association of realtors. “.product”—a joint marketing effort by retailers who sell a particular product.
How will it affect those that work in our industry, web developers, designers, bloggers, consultants? You can see already numerous IT professionals adding gTLD strategy implementation to their list of services. How will this affect search engine ranking and the work of SEO specialists? “What some people may not know is that Google already has a way of dealing with duplication and multiple suffixes," said Shad Mohammed, CEO of RAMPUP Interactive. "Adding a few more is a manageable feat for Google and other search algorithms. We see any additional duplication issues as an opportunity to flex our muscles and produce quality results for our clients.”
The same applies for us too, here at OSS. For now, the development work itself will be more of the same, except for the fact that we could be building under the .com suffix a lot less often.