On 5 February, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) released 100 new generic top-level domains (gTLDs).
What does this mean, and how will it affect us?
Generic top-level domains form the extension part of a web address, like: ‘.com’, ‘.net’, ‘.edu’, ‘.gov’ and ‘.org’.
Many of us are now familiar with these addresses, knowing, for instance, that a ‘.com’ and ‘.net’ address usually refer to business websites, whilst the others denote organisations and educational or government bodies.
Below this ‘top level’ of domain name, we have a secondary level; usually consisting of domain endings associated with specific countries, e.g: ‘.co.uk’ for the UK or ‘.fr’ for France etc.
This has been the accepted norm for some years, but as the use of the Internet has exploded, so has the demand for good quality domain names. By good quality, I mean short and recognisable names, e.g.: ‘play.com’ or ‘invest.com’.
As demand for good quality domain names outstrips supply, so the value for good commercial domains has soared, especially on the secondary marketplaces.
The ultimate example being in 2007, when the domain ‘Business.com’ sold for $350 million to RH Donnelley, a directory and online local commercial search company responsible for several white and yellow pages directories across the USA. Admittedly, they purchased a profitable business and not just a domain. Nevertheless, the figures involved are staggering.
With the advent of hundreds of new domain extensions, the ‘look and feel’ of the Internet is set to change dramatically.
Examples of the new generic top-level domain extensions becoming available this year include:
…And there are many more names, covering a wide range of services and topics, which will follow on in short order; so it’s worth checking with your favourite domain registration company to check out the full list.
If you are new to this, I would recommend www.123-Reg.co.uk – others are available. They are a UK-based company and I have happily used them for many years.
These new domain extensions go through three distinct levels of availability:
- Sunrise (SR)
- Early Access (EA)
- General Availability (GA)
Levels 1 & 2 require an element of qualification and pre-registration, whilst those in the general availability category are free to be registered today on a first-come-first-served basis.
Does this mean that we can expect to see a widespread wave of speculation in domain names, as last seen in the early .com boom period?
I fully expect this not to be the case on this occasion, for reasons of supply and demand.
In the early years, the demand was hot and the supply of names was limited. The effect of releasing such a large supply and variety of names this year will completely satisfy the latent demand in the market, to such an extent that it will effectively neutralise high values on the secondary markets.
That having been said, I still believe that good, short, intelligible .com and .co.uk names will always hold their values, as they have been present since the birth of the Internet and are sufficiently ingrained into people’s everyday language to warrant steady values.
The opportunity on this occasion lies elsewhere.
I bring you news of this step-change in the growth of the Internet, so you may take advantage of any names which you might personally need now, or in anticipation of your future requirements.
If you or an acquaintance runs a clothing, travel or photography business, then now is the time to act to secure a short and punchy domain name, specific to your needs, to help boost your brand.
My brother-in-law, for instance, runs a lighting business and I will be advising him to secure a great name that incorporates the name of the town where his business is located. My brother runs a graphics design business, so the same logic will apply.
You may belong to a local club, in which case now is the time to secure their name before it is taken.
The domain extension ‘.name’ should provide all of us with an opportunity to add to our own personal social-real-estate.
This is a very ‘useable opportunity’ rather than a financial one, but useful nonetheless.