If your business has a website (which it should – and if it doesn’t, hey, get in touch!) it’s probably on its own domain, and it’s very likely that that domain ends in .com. If you work for a nonprofit it may end in .org, or you may have a relatively new domain ending in .biz. There are a few other types of domain you may own, but the possibilities are fairly limited.
ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the organization in charge of overseeing and coordinating the domain name system, is nearing the end of a long process, initiated in 2008, that will result in a massive amount of new domain possibilities – the largest increase in the history of the internet.
The extensions at the end of domain names – .com, .org, .biz, etc. – are known as generic top-level domains, or gTLDs. Some gTLDs are unrestricted, meaning that anyone can register a domain using them – .com, .org, .net, .biz and .info are examples of unrestricted gTLDs. Some gTLDs can only be registered by people or organizations that meet certain requirements – a domain ending in .gov, for example, can only be registered by a U.S. government entity. Domain names ending in .edu are reserved for educational institutions, mainly universities.
Currently there are fewer than twenty completely unrestricted gTLDs available. Given the vast number of businesses, organizations and individuals that want to have their own domain it’s no surprise that the options are starting to seem limited. Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself – you may have been unable to register the domain name that you really wanted because someone else had already claimed it.
Soon, however (there is no exact date at this point, though it is estimated that some may become available by the end of the year), many new gTLDs will be launched – likely over 1000. A hotel could register a domain ending with .hotel; a church could register a domain ending with .church; a realtor could register a domain ending with .realtor.
What does this mean for your business? If you were unable to get the perfect domain ending in .com, you’ll have the chance to try for that name under a different, more customized gTLD. If your-restaurant-name.com was taken, you may be able to get your-restaurant-name.restaurant! Or you could get even more specialized with .pizza, .coffee or .pub!
Keep in mind, though, that whoever initially registered the .com domain you wanted might also be waiting for the opportunity to register one of the new domains. Likewise, even if you have the perfect .com domain, the exact one you wanted, it might not be a bad idea to protect your brand identity by also registering your name under one or more of the most applicable new gTLDs. You may have your-petstore-name.com, but you may still want to register your-petstore-name.pets to keep anyone else from claiming it and diluting your brand.
While it is a good idea to keep current on the release of the new gTLDs so that you can register yours as soon as possible, beware anyone offering to let you “pre-register” for a new domain. The list of gTLDs to become available has not been finalized, nor have the ownership and registration guidelines for the individual domains – meaning that currently no one can guarantee their ability to register the new domain that they claim they will hold for you.
The best thing to do right now is to stay aware of the new developments. Many media sources are referring to this as a “landrush,” so it’s a good idea to make a plan – know what domain/domains you would like to register and be ready when those gTLDs become available.
Don’t, however, overestimate the worth of new domains. Many people may try to purchase desirable domains in the hopes of selling them for higher prices later. Time will tell whether this is a good idea, but with so many new options becoming available the demand for domains is certainly going to change.
There are a lot of predictions being made about how this change will affect businesses and the internet culture. Take it for the opportunity that it is but don’t get overly wrapped up in the hype. While registering a new domain or two with relevant extensions may be a good move, you don’t need to register your brand under every new open gTLD – nor could you, unless your budget is fairly spectacular!
This will definitely be an interesting time in the progression of the internet. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing the sites that sprout up under .duck, .unicorn and .wine!