Over the festive period, Fast Company published an interesting piece wondering what will happen if ICANN releases a bunch of new domain name extensions later this year. (For the backstory, see our summary of the proposals.)

Calling it “the end of the dot-com world”, the somewhat controversial piece basically says that the creation of new TLDs (top level domains – like .com) is going to cause a headache for, well, everyone really.

It will, the article claims, lead to a “rebirth of cyber squatting” – the practice of buying up domains which are close to well-known trademarks and making money from them, either by flogging the domains to the trademark holder, or by running advertising on the site found at the domain.

This will hit companies hard, the piece claims, because they’ll have to buy up lots of new domain names in order to protect their brands. And that means consumers will be hit too, because those increased costs will almost certainly be passed on:

“Indeed, the potential costs are high. Many companies already buy up domains by the hundreds in the hope of outsmarting squatters, stonewalling their competitors, or protecting their own image.”

The other side of the fence

Not everyone thinks the new domain extensions are going to cause a headache. Over at the sometimes outspoken news site TechCrunch, Jason Kincaid thinks the exact opposite.

He argues that new domain extensions won’t really matter much, because we’ll just turn to search engines and type what we’re looking for into them instead. They certainly won’t provide a big pay day for cyber squatters:

“Some overzealous companies may still go to the trouble of snatching up as many domains as they can, but it will be for naught.”

I suspect the truth here lies somewhere in the middle. Given the rate at which the number of good, available domain names is decreasing, I’m sure there will be some demand for alternatives, and some organisations willing to jump through the admin hoops to run their own domain extensions.

Those hoops will make it expensive to get a new domain extension up and running. But if they can achieve some prominence in the market, anyone who manages to successfully launch a new TLD could stand to make an awful lot of money.

It’s a big if, but for the lucky few, it could be a gamble worth taking.

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  • Michael

    I think for many people the domain extension is already moot. Over the Christmas holidays I was at my parents and when I said things like “just go to pcworld.co.uk”, they clicked on their bookmark for google.co.uk, typed in “pcworld.co.uk” and clicked the search button (not even “I’m feeling lucky”), then chose the most likely link from the list Google gave them.

    Credit to them for knowing how to separate the wheat from the chaff in the search results but I’m surprised they seem to have an aversion to the address bar.

    In short, I don’t think your domain name or TLD really matters that much anymore, branding and SEO are much more important. At least for those who are computer-literate but not computer geeks.

    -Michael

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    January 26, 2009 at 10:18 pm