New 2013 gTLDs: The Internet’s First Major Balls Up

.com – a staple of the Internet world. The words ‘dot com’ aren’t synonymous with the Internet, they are the Internet and they have been since their inception in 1984. ‘Dot com’ remains the single most powerful tool for doing business online and the term is so deeply ingrained into society that doing anything to jeopardise its position would be catastrophic…

At present there are 22 ‘gTLDs’ (generic top level domains), these include .com, .net, .org, .info. According to the domain governing body ICANN, there is an ever-increasing demand for more extensions. And for that reason, they have decided to heavily deregulate their control over the creation of generic names by opening them up to anyone with a deep enough pocket.

That’s right, $250,000 will allow you to buy an arbitrary extension of you’re choosing; that’s anything – absolutely anything that you can think of. Here are a few that we’ll be seeing:

  • .store
  • .shop
  • .buy

These are three names all with effectively the same meaning. That means we could be visiting sites like:

  • Amazon.store
  • Amazon.shop
  • Amazon.buy

But it gets even more bizarre:

  • .cruise
  • .cruises

Both applied for by two separate companies… Is it really possible that ICANN doesn’t see a problem with this?

Rather than go into detail on every point, I want to rattle through my thoughts on why I believe this move to be a complete disaster. But I am interested to hear what you think about the new extensions; such a radical change to the Internet has never been experienced before and my skepticism could be a minority viewpoint.

Why The New gTLDs Will Fail

.mobi, .me, .biz, .info

These gTLDs are totally underused and are often associated with spam sites. Is that really going to change with the release of extensions like .cheap, .llp or .ltd?

Search Rankings

One of the leading reasons as to why the above names are underused is because they struggle to rank in Google. When was the last time you saw a .mobi appear in your search results? Google would need to value these names in search, something that I can’t see happening.

Confusion

Sharing a name with a competitor that has the plural extension (as with .cruise / .cruises), or owning the .store when everyone remembers you by .shop. Add to that the sheer volume of weird extensions clogging up the Internet and you’ll find that, at least initially, people are going to be scratching their heads.

Brandless

Domains often compete on length; ensuring that your domain is as short as is reasonably possible is one of the key considerations when purchasing a name. Something like ‘.photography’ will not help you to achieve that.

Extensions that use real words also weaken the effect that the brand name has on a user. For instance, a strong brand like HubSpot.com would be totally diluted by switching to HubSpot.marketing. The words ‘dot com’ have an impact that simply doesn’t exist when saying… ‘dot marketing’.

High Cost

To own an extension you’d need to pay $250,000; to buy a domain with that extension you’re probably looking at a minimum of £30/year (increasing depending on demand for that extension). So why would you pay (6X+ what it currently costs) to own a domain that is confusing, unbrandable and search-impotent?

All in all this, to me, looks like its destined for disaster. Google may use .google for their own business purposes, but in terms of small companies using lengthy, confusing and expensive extensions it makes zero sense.

I’d love to hear from anyone that had a strong opinion for or against this move; please leave your comments below!