You may have heard that over the next year or so, a bunch of new top-level web domains (TLDs), like .kiwi, are being released. But what does this all mean for brands, website owners and internet billionaire wannabes?
A website address (the URL) can be thought of as the opposite of a phone number, in that the most important part of the address hierarchy comes at the end. (well, except for the forward slashes which, to continue the phone number analogy, can be thought of as extensions to get through to a particular desk after you have already reached the building).
Think about calling overseas. You dial the country code first, then the area code, then the local number, which is unique to the individual you're calling. The country code is the most important part of the number’s convention. Now scan your eyes left to right across the website address at the top of this page. After the brand or company name, (CNN, StopPress, Coke, whatever) you will see a dot or two, and a weird little word.
What the hell is that .com, or co.nz you see before the forward slash?
It's the top level domain, or TLD.
gTLDs v ccTLD
There are a few different kinds of TLDs, but most of us only ever see two kinds: country code top level domains (ccTLDs) and generic top level domains (gTLDs). ccTLDs are assigned to a country or region like .co.nz for New Zealand, .co.uk for the United Kingdom, and .com.au for the Aussies.
Some interesting ccTLDs are .co which is assigned to Colombia, .tv which is assigned to our Pacific buddies in Tuvalu, and .me which is assigned to Montenegro. gTLDs are everything else. They don't suggest a country or location.
The most commonly used gTLD is .com and some others include .net, .biz, .museum, and .mobi.
So what's happening next? ICANN, the US-Based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is the authority that administers TLDs.
A few years ago they had a bit of heat put on them to introduce more gTLDs – particularly from both sides of the adult entertainment debate who agreed that .sex or .xxx would help keep porn away from children.
ICANN decided to open up applications for new TLDs and received over 2000 applications, many of which have been approved for release over the next year or so.
This means you will be able to secure domain names for your website like internet.guru or reallyfast.bike, or even anthonyis.sexy (I think my girlfriend has already reserved that one, sorry).
Brands and companies have a unique opportunity to register a full domain address that will perfectly align with their personality.
We are yet to see how these domains will increase Google search rankings, but bets are on that a search for 'really fast bike' will return reallyfast.bike above reallyfastbike.com in results. Maybe.
Brands and companies now have to consider which gTLDs they will need to reserve and register to protect their brand’s IP and stop others using it in appropriately.
Nike.sport, for example, should be secured by the sportswear giant, but may be nothing more than a defensive registration to be used for a redirect.
For regular punters hoping to be the next internet big thing, the future holds a bit more promise, as they have an opportunity to grab their dream website name and hold it for life.
This could be a landgrab or an insurance policy for your brand’s IP. We will all just have to wait and see what is actually going to happen.
Anthony Gardiner is with global domain registrar Instra Corporation.