Internet real estate as we know it will change irrevocably on January 12th, when the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) starts taking applications for its new Top-Level Domain Program.
There are (currently) 22 generic TLDs (gTLDs) such as .com, .org and .net, and 250 specific country-code TLDs (ccTLDs) like .ca for Canada, .uk for the United Kingdom, .jp for Japan and .mx for Mexico. Come January, however, virtually any word or brand name can become a gTLD for a $185,000 application fee, proof of being able to pay for the gTLD going forward, and sufficient justification by the brand.
Dotbranding introduces a whole new way to surf the web, enhancing companies’ SEO strategy, heightening protection against interlopers and cybersquatters, and letting brand names serve as web addresses with the potential for a variety of sub-domains.
Deloitte, Canon, Hitachi, Motorola and UNICEF are filing for their .brand web addresses, according to Marketing Week in the UK.
“Some of the aspects are unknown, but being a first mover has risks and great rewards," Deloitte web communications exec Bill Barrett told Marketing Week. "It aligns with Deloitte’s positioning around being innovative and one step ahead."
ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom says that while his organization has established the guidelines and will handle the application process, it is companies’ responsibility to educate consumers about usage. “The introduction of a .brand domain is almost like a logo change, and new marketing will need to be done. But I think word will spread pretty fast. You are talking about some pretty major entities in the world that will have their name after the dot and their collective marketing power greatly exceeds that of Icann,” says Beckstrom.
Opinions are sharply divided as the ICANN gTLD debate heats up and brands and businesses struggle to understand the immediate and far-reaching implications.
"The domain system will have to advance from its current 200 million domain names to support 2 billion domain names in the near future,” writes Naseem Javed on Adotas.com. "This is the natural progression of an expanding e-commerce that knows no bounds."
America's Association of National Advertisers is opposed to the new program, as ANA head Bob Liodice recently spelled out for Forbes.com.
“[The] program will throw the domain-name universe into widespread confusion while generating untold costs to domestic and international businesses and harm to consumers,” he wrote. “Some have estimated that, for a typical company, the cost of acquiring a single top-level domain and managing it over the initial commitment of 10 years could easily exceed $2 million, including expenses for the application process, operations, disputes, legal services, trademark monitoring and protection.”
gTLD is a game changer for global marketing and branding, as the Internet world of three billion plus users struggle to manage the cyber name game.
“The new gTLDs means an almost unlimited expansion of the current system,” said James Davis, Arent Fox LLP, to Canadian Lawyer magazine. “What’s happening is we’re opening up a lot of new real estate, and any time you open up a lot of real estate you start to attract the ne’er-do-wells and scammers that try and play off your mark to confuse consumers and profit from it."
For more on the pros and cons of dotbranding, check out Interbrand's white paper on the subject.