The new internet address gold rush!
Finding a domain name (URL; or internet address) that suits your business can be a painful branding exercise.
Up until now, there have only been a handful of domain name suffixes available.
These are the bits that go on the end of your internet address, like .com; .com.au; .net and .org (otherwise known as a global top-level domains, or gTLDs).
This has often made launching a new business name disappointing.
The usual domain registration process
You think of the perfect name – Eureka!
You are lucky enough that it’s not registered with ASIC. You beauty! You register it.
The graphic designer is on the case for the logo.
Now all you need to do is hop on the net and buy the domain name.
Hmmm… eureka.com is taken. That’s ok – I’m in Australia anyway, customers know .com.au is the right one these days.
Let me just… bugger! eureka.com.au is taken too. Ok, I can be tricky about this. Let’s have a look at some international options.
.ca is usually for Canadian sites. Let’s go with that. Oh… eure.ca is taken too.
I know – youree.ca. Finally, one that’s available.
You snap it up, then call the graphic designer with the updated brief. YouReeCa!
Even if potential customers could spell it, nobody wants to visit your smelly Canadian website.
Domain name fail.
Domain names matter
Your website is the 24/7 face of your business; and if you’re a large company, it will act as the primary platform for communicating your brand.
You will be plastering the internet address all over your advertising – billboards, television, radio, newspapers, business cards, flyers. And that’s not even counting your online marketing.
More and more, we are seeing domain names as the brand.
The first thing I do when I brainstorm a new brand is check if the domain is available.
Some companies build it in from the start, often reappropriating country specific suffixes for their own purposes.
Think redd.it (Italy); bit.ly (Libya); draw.io (Brittish Indian Ocean Territory) – all actually based in the US.
More recently introductions, like .info, .tv, .mobi and .xxx expanded the options a little bit, but can potentially dilute a brand rather than boost it.
That’s been the sad story since the web was in its infancy.
Decent domain names are so rare, some people buy and trade them for a living, sitting on the best ones until the market value becomes ridiculously inflated.
This is all about to change, and things might get messy.
After nearly two years of deliberation, and 2,000 applications, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has announced it will release over 1,300 new domain name suffixes (gTLDs) in the next few years.
- Generic ones, such as .catering, .reviews, .flights, .app and .domains (funnily enough).
- Location specific ones, such as .tokyo and .berlin.
- Random weird ones, like .cool, .sucks and .ninja.
- And, most importantly for your marketing efforts, brand and organisation specific ones, such as .monash and .wang – with .nike, .mcdonalds and .apple supposedly in the works (though I can’t find confirmation of this when I search ICANN applications).
What lies ahead?
This looks to me like the opening of the floodgates.
Domain suffixes were always fairly arbitrary, and only limited by the effort and organisation of the people that come up with them.
Back in 1985 the US Department of Defense made up .com, with .edu; .gov; .mil; .net; .org and .arpa created at the same time.
They could have been anything. Behind the curtain of the interwebs, domain names just point to serial numbers (otherwise known as IP addresses).
It feels like the 1,300 in the pipeline are just the beginning, as people realise these things were not handed down from on high, but are open to change in a big way. Proper english words are now being released, not just abbreviations and acronyms.
A “me too!” marketing mentality will soon infect everyone with a brand or niche interest.
Companies will have monopolies over entire domain ranges, like [blah].nike, raising new questions around net neutrality.
Country specific domains will be ignored (again) like the good old .com bubble of the nineties, unless we start to see application like .ninja.au.
What does this mean for my business?
Businesses will trip over themselves in the excitement, and accidentally confuse themselves, their brand, and their customers.
A whole array of new domains will all still point to the same old .com.au, at least in the short term, but marketers won’t know what to use in their promotional material.
This is probably the most important point to consider, as companies get brand positioning wrong enough as it is.
Companies that have many fingers in many pies will need to prioritise.
“Is the brand the company, or the product? Should we go with post-it.3m? Or 3m.post-it?”
“How many niche services do we offer again? Do we go with mowing.jims; or jims.mowing? What about jims.cleaning vs. cleaning.jims?!”
Time will tell on this. It’s going to get noisier before the dust settles on some new conventions.
And in the meantime, the impulse to snap up every possible variation to protect your brand will become overwhelming.