Hundreds of New Internet Domains Opening for Business
The Internet is getting crowded.
The world’s total number of registered domain names surpassed 250 million last year. That means it’s harder than ever to find a domain name that isn’t taken already. If you’re a business trying to make your website stand out from the vast online crowd, it’s a huge problem.
Fortunately, a new era is dawning in Internet history. New domains are opening up beyond the standard ones like .com and .ca. This post is part of a special blog series on domain names and your business. In it, you’ll learn how the new domain landscape works and what it could mean for your company.
Top-level domains defined
Top-level domains (TLDs) are the main category of domains overseen by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). There are three major types for businesses to know about:
- The country-code TLD (ccTLD) denotes nations (for example, .ca for Canada).
- The second type fall under generic TLDs (gTLDs). There are 22 gTLDS including .com, .gov, .org, .net and .biz.
- The third type fall under professional TLDs. ICANN introduced professional TLDs in 2004 to indicate practitioners within certain regulated professions (i.e., .eng.pro for engineers, .arc.pro for architects, etc.). But you can only apply for a domain name with a .pro extension if you’re a licensed practitioner within one of the professions approved by ICANN.
New generic top-level domains (gTLDs)
Faced with an overcrowded domain name market, ICANN announced a more open system for owning and registering domains in 2011. Whereas ICANN controls all the existing gTLDs, the updated system allows almost anyone to buy a new domain. Owners of the new domains can make money by charging fees each time domain names are registered under them.
However, buying a new domain isn’t cheap, and requires a minimum investment of $185,000. Nevertheless, some companies have already paid big bucks to snap up multiple domains. One company called Donuts Inc. has reportedly raised $100 million to apply for over 300 new domains such as .pizza, .baby and .baseball.
The new TLD timeline
In June 2013, ICANN said it had received almost 2,000 applications for new gTLDs including .music, .shop and .nyc. In autumn 2013, ICANN announced less than 100 new gTLDs it has approved so far, including .bike, .plumbing and .camera. The general public can start registering domain names under the new gTLDs with registrars in early 2014.
What it means for businesses
The new domain name system could have enormous implications for businesses around the world. Here’s a breakdown of some major ones:
Choice: If domain names you wanted before were already taken, the new options increase your chances of getting them now under the new extensions.
Branding: You’ll have more options to choose domain names that will make your business memorable and help it stand out from competitors. A .floral domain name, for example, instantly tells your customers what kind of business you are at a glance.
SEO: Google has not definitively stated yet how the new domains will affect its search engine optimization process. Some experts think having a new TLD will boost search rankings as long as the domain is supported by related website content. (That proves it’s a legitimate site and not a fake spam site, for example.) Other experts say a new TLD could actually hurt your SEO rankings at first. That’s because the new domains will have no previous search history or links, which are two strong factors in SEO rankings.
Cybersquatting: Cybersquatters buy multiple domain names as a moneymaking scheme, solely to sell them to legitimate organizations that really want them. They also buy expired domain names to sell them back to their former owners. More TLDs means cybersquatters have more options too. You may want to buy several variations of your current and desired domain names as a defensive ploy against cybersquatters.
The bottom line
No one’s really sure yet how the introduction of hundreds of new domains will affect marketing and SEO at businesses around the world. It’s a given, however, that millions of companies around the globe are poised to snap up new domain names as soon as the new TLDs are introduced. That means you can’t afford to sit back and watch your competitors beat you to the most creative, memorable, relevant new domains for your business.
Would you consider registering a domain name under one of the coming new TLDs? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in our comments area below.