New Influx of gTLDs Has Big Implications for Marketers
By now you've heard about the sea change underway in internet domain names. As of mid-March, the period for applying for new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) — the part of the internet address to the right of the dot — ended. Thus starts the tidal wave of new domain name suffixes rolling out later this spring. Almost 2,000 new gTLDs were applied for, everything from .nyc and .insurance to .cool, with big implications on search, brand and brand protection.
After a review process conducted by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), some 1,200 of these newcomers will make their way into e-commerce and e-marketing channels, as well as search engines like Google. They'll include brand names like .chrysler and .americanexpress, generic industry domains like .wine and .hotel, geographic markers like .london and .paris, and some seemingly whimsical upstarts like .ninja, .lol and .wow.
Also around the end of March, ICANN will introduce the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH), a database that will act as minor traffic cop, keeping track of all secondary domain names applied for. While the TMCH will provide an early warning signal to brand owners about new gTLD applications that match pre-registered names during a 60-day sunrise period, it doesn't have enforcement powers and won't substitute for brand owners exercising constant vigilance.
Obviously for any company holding brands or trademarks, this expansion represents a huge new set of risks and challenges, as well as the opportunity to shore up its online presence in a way it may have missed doing when the original dozen or so gTLDs, such as .com and .edu, were introduced. Brand owners with many different trademarks will have a particular challenge, as they'll have to consider what to do about the thousands of possible permutations on their brands’ domain names that could make their company susceptible to brand infringement and cybersquatting. And for e-marketers, one big question is how can the new wave of domain names work to maximize the visibility — and searchability — of their brand?