July 2008 - Editor’s Perspective

Thinking Beyond .com

Retailers and marketers may want to brace themselves because come early 2009, there’s going to be a feeding frenzy. According to a June 2007 article in USA Today, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit organization that oversees the technical foundation of the Net, is changing the restrictions on domain names. In June, ICANN made the decision “to increase competition and choice,” said CEO Paul Tworney. That simply means that just about any word will be accepted as a legitimate web address.

Yes, that’s right! You won’t be restricted to the standard .com, .net, .tv, .org, etc. Around this time next year, you could be seeing such domains as www.televisions.sony or www.blenders.kitchenaid. This no doubt will have many salivating over the prospect of getting their hands on top-level domains-those desirable addresses that will cause people years from now to kick themselves while exclaiming, “Man, why didn’t I think to buy that domain name back then?!”

However, before you start thinking dollar signs, you should know that there will be a caveat: ICANN says that not all domain terms will qualify. According to the USA Today article, an application for a top-level domain can be denied if it conflicts with a trademark, is too similar to an existing domain, is a geopolitical term claimed by a government or other group or if it threatens morality or public order.

This might serve as some comfort to those worried that some unscrupulous character might snatch up your trademark and try to sell it to you. Although ICANN is still working out the details, it will, however, require proof from those applying for top-level domains that they are capable of managing the huge technical chore of operating the domain, or that they have hired someone who does, as reported by USA Today.

The exact fees for top-level domains have not been determined, but could possibly start at $100,000-while popular domains could be auctioned.

It’s evident that this recent news offers more choices to people, yet it will also cause many companies to scramble to register thousands of domains just to safeguard their brand or company name, regardless of the trademark stipulations that ICANN will be implementing. Other critics contend that this will make it more difficult for Internet surfers to locate certain sites.

I believe this will force companies to really reevaluate their online efforts-from making certain that they are current with their domain registrations, to examining more carefully where their name ranks on the major search engine sites. What’s more, if you are looking to make significant cuts to your budget next year, perhaps you should rethink trimming your SEM dollars. In fact, you may need to increase spending in that area.

For those who are in the planning stages of their new site, this announcement probably couldn’t have come at a better time. However, it may very well be a case of too many choices. If anything, it will prompt you to think more strategically about the name you ultimately select for your company and your brand. Your decision, which was once confined to characters positioned just to the left of the period, has just become more complex. What’s in a name? It’s one that will give you maximum exposure on the web, yet won’t have you constantly asking: Do you think customers will be able to find us?

Vitisia Paynich


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