Best of Brand Marketing Distilled is our periodic distillations of the best of brand marketing and business intelligence. We hope the ideas and articles are fuel for your organization’s planning and success.
This edition focuses on a new development in internet marketing: the new generic top-level domain (gTLD) names. In this post, we’ll look at what the new top-level domains are, along with the role played by ICANN in the approval process for gTLD applications. As well, we’ll give you four key things to keep in mind for your brand as the new top-level domain process moves forward.
What are Top-level Domain Names?
Top-level domains (TLDs) are Internet extensions like .com, .ca or .uk. This is an essential part of the Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS). It is a key ingredient to the Internet “address” system. Currently, there are country code TLDs (ccTLDs), sponsored TLDs, and generic TLDs. Generic TLDs include .com, .info, .net and .org.
What is ICANN?
ICANN stands for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. It coordinates the Domain Name System, Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, space allocation, protocol identifier assignment, generic and country code top-level domain name system management, and root server system management functions. Basically, ICANN coordinates the “address” information for the internet and coordinates Internet governance policies.
New Top-level Domain Names
ICANN initiated a process for organizations to apply for new generic top-level domain names. On June 13, 2012, ICANN released a list of the new gTLD applications by 1,930 applicants. While a number are unique to a particular company (.fedex by Federal Express Corporation), there are quite a few applicants vying for the same top-level domain including: .app, .bank, .design, .fashion, .flowers, .game or .games, .llc, .love, .ltd., and .vip.
It’s important to note that expansion of TLDs has been happening over time. For example, in 2011 ICANN approved the .xxx sponsored TLD. This domain was intended as a voluntary option for pornographic sites on the Internet.
What it Takes to Get a New Top-level Domain Name
For most organizations, the cost of applying for a new gTLD will be prohibitive; the initial application fee is $185,000, and the applicant will need to demonstrate that it has the capacity to manage the new gTLD in the future.
Applicants for a new gTLD are essentially applying to oversee and keep secure a whole new wing of internet infrastructure. It is very different from buying a URL and setting up a website.
Branding Impacts of New Top-level Domain Names
There are four main things to consider for your brand as the new gTLD process unfolds.
1. If your brand is not a very, very well funded behemoth, or you are not in the business of managing domains, then you haven’t missed the boat in not applying for a new gTLD.
2. To be on the safe side, you may want to monitor the ICANN website to make sure no one is trying to turn your trademark or brand into their gTLD.
3. Consider whether you will pursue a strategy of buying additional domain names as defensive registrations. “Defensive registrations” means owning domain names that look like yours, but are not exact matches. For example, a financial institution might want to add “BrandNameforBigBank.bank” in addition to “BrandNameforBigBank.com”. More on defensive registrations in our post Brand Naming: When Time Equals Money.
4. In the future, there may be new and interesting gTLD options available for your brand. You may decide to use a brand-category-based gTLD to underscore your brand category for your audience. For example, you will need to consider if you want your website to be located at a .com address or at a more descriptive domain address (.app, .bank, .design, .fashion, .flowers, .game or .games).