By opening up domain suffixes - the final letters following the 'dot' at the end of domain addresses - to any wording in any language or script, Icann (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has massively expanded the number of potential domain name endings available.
The Icann board approved a plan to dramatically increase the number of internet domain name endings - called generic top-level domains (gTLDs) - from the current 22, which includes such familiar domains as .com, .org and .net.
Much noise is being made about the new domains, but with a price tag starting at $185,000, the potential market is narrowed to major international corporations. And for any boost they may be receiving for fully branding their domain, the big brands may also be exposing themselves to a range of associated risks, experts have warned.
For instance, while the system could be said to democratise domain names by opening them up to any of the world’s alphabets or scripts, this also presents a dilemma to companies in terms of just how many territories and languages they cover.
On the other hand, for smaller companies and startups in particular, it could prove to be just plain irrelevant.
"I don't see it taking off except in very limited, tightly controlled circumstances," said Edwin Hayward of Memorable Domains, a generic domain name specialist based in Cambridge.
"After all, .travel, .jobs, .mobi, .asia (and to a lesser extent .eu, .biz and .info) have all failed miserably in the market and each of those extensions had more marketing push behind it than any one company is likely willing to put into its "own" extension.
"At the same time, countless hundreds of thousands of firms will continue to effectively "brand" the .co.uk extension by using .co.uk domains in their advertising/marketing, both online and off.
"In other words, £billions is being spent "collectively" to brand .co.uk and .com, even if each individual company doesn't think of it in those terms.
"The exceptions may be firms such as Facebook, as they could conceivably give every user a ".facebook" domain to match their user ID, for example. But these exceptions will be few and far between."
"Is shoes.nike really a better brand weapon than nike.com/shoes, especially as most people find their target site through search engines, and these are getting better and better at tracking down the content we seek?," Nicklin asks.
"In practice, the $185k application fee will put off all but the large corporations and government entities in any case. ICANN justifies this large fee on the basis of the due diligence they plan to apply to the first batch of 500 applications next year."
However, there is an obvious opportunity there too says Nicklin: "Many innovative new companies in our region have suffered the frustration at finding that their favourite term or brand already exists as a .com.
"They will be delighted at first hearing that they can apply for their own generic top level domain name using any word they like.
"The chaps at Coca-Cola and Apple might be expected to be salivating at the prospect of owning .coke or .mac. The ability to create URLs in any language or script offers in principle a great new tool for creative organisations or even individuals to make their mark in a memorable way.
"Rather less enthusiastic will be those charged with sorting out URL validation issues, or facing the additional cost and complexity of defending their brands against new onslaughts from cyber squatters. Others will fear a dramatic rise in phishing scams."
Matthew Sammon, partner at IP firm, Marks & Clerk, believes the cost of the domain names will help put off those trying to take advantage of the new freedom.
He said: "The lengthy and costly procedure involved in the application for the new domain suffixes should help to keep would-be cyber-squatters out of the process.
"Large companies like Coca-Cola and Google have been waiting years for this opportunity to fully brand their web addresses. We're likely to see every brand that can applying for their own domain suffix.
"However, we're yet to find how the story will end for two companies who own the right to the same trade name in different territories and both want it for their domain name suffix. Such cases may lead to a race to file the application with Icann or even an auction."blog comments powered by Disqus