It’s taken us a little while to get round to posting on this issue – mainly because we took the blog offline around the time the news broke.
Anyway, you might well have seen by now that ICANN (the organisation responsible for managing the internet’s domain name system) has apparently given the go ahead for the creation of lots of new top level domains (TLDs).
A TLD is the part of a domain name which comes after the final dot. For instance, .com, .uk and .net are all TLDs.
The policy from ICANN suggests that there could be a free market for TLDs – so we could see domain names ending in anything. It means companies could turn their brands into web addresses, or geographic areas could be given TLDs – .vegas and .london domains have both been suggested as possibilities.
However, you might need to think twice before setting up your name as a TLD because it looks like applying for one could cost more than $100,000. And that will probably be a non-refundable fee, so if your TLD is turned down, you’ll be seriously out of pocket.
Having said that, these changes are billed as a liberalisation, and it looks like new TLDs would only be refused for one of two reasons:
- The proposed TLD looks dubious on moral or public order grounds.
- There is substantial opposition from a community which the TLD is targeted at.
These subjective measures seem quite open to interpretation, so if this does all go ahead it will be interesting to see how it works in practice.
A waste of time?
Suggestions have come from more than one quarter that this whole thing is a waste of time. More TLDs will simply create more confusion. Businesses will have to register additional domains to protect their brand, and people trying to find websites will frequently type in the wrong URL and end up at the wrong place.
However, on the other side of the fence, it is true that as the number of registered addresses grows, the number of good available domains is naturally shrinking. It’s by no means impossible to find decent domains at the moment, but it is getting a little harder.
A choice of more TLDs could give businesses and individuals the opportunity to find their ideal address, rather than having to settle for the second best version of a .com or .co.uk domain. More TLDs would mean there’s more internet real estate to go around, and that could ease the demand for memorable .com and .co.uk domains.
Another important point is that these liberalised addresses could be available in any alphabet. So, for instance, a Russian TLD could be in the Cyrillic alphabet. Along with internationalised domain names (where the whole domain is in a non-Latin alphabet) this would almost certainly be good news for countries which don’t use the Latin alphabet.
However, for us the big question is whether introducing a whole load of new TLDs will have any impact on the desirability of long-established TLDs like .com and .co.uk.
Looking up the take up of relatively-new TLDs, like .jobs or .travel, we suspect that making more TLDs available could actually make .com and .co.uk domains even more sought after. After all, these are instantly-recognisable, well-respected TLDs.
We could end up with a two-tier system where a few first-class TLDs (like .com) are highly desirable and the rest are seen as second best. The challenge for any new TLD will be making the leap into that small group of highly-desirable, highly-recognisable domains.
What do you think of the proposals? Would you be tempted to create your own TLD? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.
- The BBC has a good video summarising the proposals and another short interview with the chief executive of ICANN.
- Jay Daley from Nominet has posted some interesting thoughts on their management blog.