New gTLDs Offer a Glimpse of Tomorrow’s Internet

Domain name license agreement
Even if they’re not well-versed in the precise terminology of domain hierarchies, almost everyone who’s ever been online recognizes generic top-level domains. Also known as gTLDs, these extensions add the familiar “.com,” “.net,” etc. to the URLs we enter while browsing. This once-modest pool of “after the dot” domains is about to undergo a major change, however—and the impact extends far beyond the browser bar.

The Rise of the Customized Internet

Historically, the Internet has used just 22 gTLDs to register all of the sites it contains, with .com leading the pack with more than 100 million registered domains. But as of January 29th, 2014, those looking to set themselves apart can take advantage of seven new TLDs, including:

  • .bike
  • .clothing
  • .guru
  • .holdings
  • .plumbing
  • .singles
  • .ventures

And that’s just the beginning. The company responsible for registering and adding the new domains, Donuts, Inc., is one of the largest registrar partners in the world, and has plans to make hundreds more available throughout 2014. On February 5th, 2014, another seven gTLDs (including such niche domains as .camera, .graphics, and .equipment) are scheduled for release.

New Domains, New Opportunities

With more than 300 new gTLDs available on the horizon, businesses large and small are preparing to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by more customizable addresses for their digital presences. In addition to the benefit of more memorable and user-friendly names (e.g., a clothing store with a website like “BrandX.clothing” gives potential visitors an immediate and clear image of what their site offers), companies are also seeking to ward off piracy and cybersquatting and improve business planning.

Companies are also applying for new gTLDs in order to reinforce their intellectual property claims. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has built several additional layers of copyright protection into its gTLD structure, including a trademark clearinghouse that provides (exact-match) registration for protected trademarks.

Another, less direct method of protection comes in the form of the costs associated with registering a new gTLD. Businesses and individuals registering sites with the new extensions will most likely purchase their domains as part of a hosting package or with an independent registrar. They can expect to pay costs similar to those for registering a domain with an existing extension such as .com or .net, but those applying for ownership and distribution rights of domains (e.g., companies with large brands to protect (such as Amazon.com and L.L. Bean) or registries such as Donuts, Inc.) pay $185,000 to apply, and then $25,000 annually after to maintain ownership. This is a powerful, if not insurmountable, obstacle to potential cybersquatters, particularly for gTLDs which have been registered in the trademark clearinghouse.

Embracing a New Standard

You may be asking yourself if now’s the right time to update your online presence with a new gTLD. Exciting opportunities abound, but the additional expense of registering multiple new domains (and variants, if you chose to pursue “defensive registrations”) is certainly something to keep in mind. If you’ve got a well-established brand and site, making the move may take some careful strategic planning and marketing in order to maintain customer confidence and avoid confusing your visitors and clients with new addresses.

It’s important to keep in mind as well that not all registrars may have access to all gTLDs right away. For example, since Donuts, Inc. owns the newest gTLDs rolling out in January of 2014 (and has applied, and been approved, for 304 in all), customers will need to purchase domains with these new extensions from registrars who have contracted with Donuts, Inc. That said, since many of the most popular registrars (including GoDaddy.com, Network Solutions, and name.com, among others) are already partnered with Donuts, Inc., chances are most folks will be able to take advantage of the new extensions without undue delay.

It’s important to protect your intellectual property, as well as take advantage of new marketing opportunities, but the wisest move may be to consult a trusted hosting provider and registrar to discuss your available options.

We’ll keep you posted on the latest developments as the rollout continues. With more than 1,000 new gTLD applications—in multiple languages—currently on file with ICANN, your new custom address on the World Wide Web of tomorrow may be closer than you think.

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