Not too long ago, ICANN announced that they would be releasing hundreds of new vanity domain name extensions — possibly even eventually allow any domain name to be registered in any domain name extension. Let’s rewind now and discuss the significance of this for non-technical viewers — when you currently visit a website, say EzineArticles for example, you type in EzineArticles.com. For some other websites, it’s .net, others still it will be .org, or a county code top level domain such as .ca if the website is targeting Canadian readers or .co.uk if targeting British readers.
At present, most of the good keywords are taken and every extension. When there’s a limited amount of anything, people will tend to hoard it and domain names have been no different. These new domain name extensions offer the possibility of obtaining that keyword you always wanted. Take me for example — my first name is Reece, something which is unfortunately taken in all major extensions. My alternatives at present would be to go with an unknown extension which might confuse anyone coming to my website or to pay a domainer (someone who owns the domain name I want) hundreds or possibly even thousands of dollars to get my name in a particular extension.
When we look at the new domain name extensions from this angle, they sure sound great! Let’s look at the other dark side however. For businesses — you’ve spent millions of dollars branding your company as being on a .com, .net, .org, etc domain and now all of the sudden people will be using all sorts of different extensions… Don’t you think your customers may get confused? And then we have a far bigger problem — phishing. When you get emails pretending to be from Paypal or your bank asking you to give out sensitive information — that’s phishing. These new extensions will make it far easier to phish and the worst part is that many customers will be unaware of these new extensions and liable to fall victim. If firstname.lastname@example.org emailed you, would you realize this may not actually be eBay? There are enough people who fall for this each year that phishing is a billion dollar business.
And finally another cost — cybersquatting. For companies who have spent millions of dollars building up the goodwill which is associated with their names to have it vanish overnight is frightening. Imagine someone owning Burger.King — how many people wouldn’t think that’s owned by Burger King? What if this website which is confusingly similar to burger king started recommending that visitors go to McDonald’s because Burger King sucks (just an example) ?
Clearly there are a lot of problems with the rollout of these new domain name extensions — it appears quite evident that the costs outweigh the benefits and it remains to be seen what will be done to protect trademark holders and the general public from cybersquatters and other opportunists. For a business, domain names have never been more important, due to the ever increasing need for companies to have an online web presence. One thing I’m interested in seeing are unique domain development initiatives built around the possibilities these new extensions will offer.