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Changing domain name space: hundreds of new TLDs

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Top-level domains (TLDs) help visitors to the Internet identify the type of website they’re visiting. There are now over 700 top-level domains from which site owners can choose when registering their domains. These extensions are regulated by The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Non-profits often choose .ORG, while the United States military branches have websites with .MIL extensions. Consumers in the United Kingdom can quickly look for online retailers and businesses that cater specifically to them thanks to the .Co.uk domain, too. Similarly, there are hundreds of country code TLDs and a handful of top-level domains such as “.asia” that help businesses point out their geographic location by website address alone.

TLDs Added Over the Years

The past several years have paved the way for hundreds of unique top-level domains that serve a variety of purposes. Some of them clearly work well in certain industries. Consider the following top-level domains that currently exist in the system after ICANN opened up applications for new TLDs and gTLDs over the last decade:

  • .attorney
  • .catering
  • .ceo
  • .city
  • .organic
  • .blue
  • .vegas
  • .press
  • .webcam

While one might argue that TLDs such as “.pizza” or “.sexy” are frivolous in nature, they do help to clarify the intent or purpose of a website. In many cases, these new TLDs can also make the domain name easier to remember. After all, domain names exist solely to be human-friendly so visitors won’t have to remember specific numeric IP addresses when they want to visit a website.

Some people may choose TLDs simply based on how they look. For example, social bookmarking site Delicious was originally located at del.icio.us because the top-level domain enabled the site owners to spell out the name of their company. In the mid-2000s, several TLDs became popular with personal bloggers for vanity reasons. These include “.me” and “.nu.” While the latter is commonly used in some northern European countries because it translates to “Now,” bloggers scrambled to purchase .NU domains even though the cost was several times higher than the typical .COM or .NET.

Thousands of New TLD Applications in 2012

ICANN opened applications for potentially thousands of new gTLDs and the rights to operate those registries in 2012. While many of those still require approval, the Internet will certainly see an influx in the number and type of domain names available as ICANN accepts applications. For example, Amazon is among the many companies that applied for new TLDs. These include the expected “.kindle” and “.amazon,” which the company will operate. However, the ecommerce giant also applied for gTLDs such as the following:

  • .movie
  • .shop
  • .game
  • .cloud
  • .fire
  • .app

Of course, Amazon isn’t the only company to hop on 2012’s TLD application bandwagon. Microsoft wants control of “.xbox,” Google is interested in “.youtube” and “.lol” (among many others) and Apple wants “.apple.” These new TLDs are in the process of being added. ICANN is dealing with new TLDs in batches of 500, and the non-profit organization began adding domain extensions in the beginning of 2013.

While many people see this as good news, not everyone is excited over the influx of new top-level domains. Web.com, one domain registration service, says that the influx of top-level domains has changed the way that domain name merchants make money. It was once common for people to buy domain names in bulk because they anticipated those names rising in value. When this happened, the owners sold the domain names to make a profit. And those profits weren’t paltry. In 2010, the domain “sex.com” sold for $10 million!

However, new TLDs mean there are more variations to choose from, so the overall value of domain names that have a potentially-high demand is dropping. This has led to fewer people purchasing domain names specifically for resale, and registrars like Web.com may suffer because of it. In fact, Tucows has reported the same trend for approximately two years, even before ICANN began adding new TLDs.

This is especially true as more companies gain control over new TLDs. If companies like Amazon choose to sell domain names using the TLDs they own, they’ll become competitive with existing registrars. This could be worrisome to companies that sell hosting services in addition to domain name registration. GoDaddy is one of the better-known examples. The company provides both services to consumers, although website owners can purchase hosting and domains from separate companies.

If Amazon – or any company that offers cloud storage and also applied for new TLDs – decides to offer domain names with its existing cloud hosting services, they could become direct competitors to the names that have dominated website hosting and domain names for years. Perhaps that is the point, however. More TLD options means more competition, and companies that are able to respond to these changes creatively will remain successful whether there are seven, 700, or 7,000 top-level domains available to consumers.

And there is no doubt that the benefits of an expanded TLD space are panning out for companies in search of the right domain name for their business or website. With meaningful TLDs that reflect their brand or aspirations, from .organic and .lgbt to .blue and .pink, the ability to find the precise domain name required has emerged as an immediate possibility. The days of mashing together a string of words that approximates the business in an effort to find something – anything – remaining that is available with a .com ending have, thankfully, come to an end.