With the Internet hovering around 1 billion registered domains, it is, to put it mildly, a very crowded place. Given that staggering number and the demand for available top-level domain extensions (TLDs), especially dot.coms, it’s easy to see why registering a new domain is so challenging.
Today, the “any use” TLDs – dot.com, dot.net, and dot.org – continue to be the standard. These TLDs are unlikely to fade in importance in the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, purchasing one of these, especially those containing valuable keywords, can be fraught with difficulty, as many are owned, parked, or simply too expensive for the budget of a small business.
A whole new world
To remedy some of these issues, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) began the process of approving new generic TLDs (gTLDs). These gTLDs include geographical locations (e.g. dot.nyc for New York City), names of business categories (e.g. dot. realtor), brand and company names (e.g. home.barclays), and a handful of generic words (e.g. dot.top).
There are now more than 1,000 TLDs with still more to come. The full list of TLDs – though not quite up to date – is available on the ICANN website. These name extensions can be a plus as they allow businesses to customize their web presences and sometimes, as in the case of Barclays and several other brands, have their very own TLD.
For example, as part of a broader rebrand, the healthcare company eSNF Patient Care changed its name to TripleCare, which also allowed them to also switch domains from the bulky www.esnfpatientcare.com to the shorter and easier to remember triple.care.
The new gTLDs can even increase a brand’s visibility as they allow owners to use keywords that are unavailable with a dot.com or dot.net. For instance, Florida-based lawyer Eric Block registered the domain jacksonville.lawyer, a move that helped him achieve higher rankings in search. From this single example, it’s easy to the wide range of possibilities for small business owners.
The geographical gTLDs offer smaller businesses opportunities to create shorter domain names that are easier to remember and less prone to typos. A case of this is found with Aangan, an Indian restaurant in New York City, which went from the long and unwieldy www.aanganindianrestaurant.com to the succint aangan.nyc.
Barriers to acceptance
Despite the obvious benefits and the security safeguards ICAAN has put in place, concerns about these new gTLDs remain. Some worry about consumer confusion and brand managers may be less than enthusiastic about rebranding the Starbucks website as starbucks.coffee.
A further issue is the annoyance of cybersquatters, who register these domains. Of course cybersquatting has been around since the Internet began, but with more TLDs possible, brands will potentially have to spend more time policing their marks.
Despite these concerns, these new gTLDs are more than a workaround for dot.com and other TLD unavailability. Along with providing new ways to implement and rank for keywords, they can make a brand stand out from pack and create simpler, friendlier, and more memorable domain names.