Someone sent me this the other day. They wanted to know what the media and advertising implications were of gTLD (generic Top-Level Domains) expansion. My short answer: I don’t have the slightest clue. My guess is that this will unfold in slow motion and that at the end of the day, it will somehow be bad for small businesses.
The short synopsis is that on January 12, 2012, companies (not individuals apparently — sorry Kim and Chloe) will be able to apply for new gTLDs that are outside the normal “.com, .net, .org,” domains that we’ve become accustomed to. In their place, pretty much any URL you can think of would be potentially available, even non-Latin alphabet extensions. So, for example, it would be possible for Coca Cola to buy the “.coke” TLD, or Apple to buy “.ipad”, or Ford to buy “.cars”. But it’s a big company, big pockets type of game. Each extension will cost $185K, plus $25K per year.
In theory, gTLD self selection should make it easier for customers to find what they want, since most domains would naturally group by brand or product extension. Some larger businesses have made the argument that this will help them protect their brand integrity, as well as prevent phishing and other fraudulent activities. I guess the price tag, coupled with ICANN oversight, will minimize the risk of squatters. The expectation is that the first of these will not roll out until early 2013.
Honestly, I have nothing but questions at this point. Thankfully, we have all next year to start finding answers. So here are my top 5 questions:
1. How will disputes over broad generic terms be sorted out? I’m assuming that Ford, GM, Audi, Nissan and others may all want “.cars” Seems like the only winners will be ICANN and a bunch of lawyers.
2. What happens if companies want to buy individual names? For example, what if TLC or Turner, or Disney decides that they should own the TLD extension of their top stars? Shouldn’t the individuals in question have the option to buy those?
3. How does this impact search, if at all? My guess is that it might reduce volume, since one could intuitively just enter a term with a brand extension and end up where they need to be (Example: “cars.ford” versus “ford cars”, which would trigger a search.)
4. What about small companies? Won’t this make it easier for larger companies to handicap smaller competitors?
5. Will anyone even notice when this starts to happen?
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