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The first year of new gTLD availability has provided a promising snapshot of what’s to come in the revolution of online branding. Bob Samuelson of Donuts reports.
The domain name system needs to evolve to provide an opportunity for companies to better market themselves and for consumers to better find the products and services they need. That evolution started when the new web suffixes—officially known as new generic top-level domains (gTLDs)—arrived more than a year ago. More than 500 new gTLDs now in the marketplace equates to billions of new naming opportunities. There’s now a relevant naming option for every industry, business, organisation, passion and hobby.
Why is this need for evolution particularly true today? Because .com domain names are a finite resource. Over the past three decades, any decent .com address has been scooped up, causing artificial scarcity for online identities.
This pressure valve was released when new gTLDs launched in January 2014, and since then more than four million individual addresses have been registered by hundreds of thousands of businesses and organisations around the world—all using new domains to create naming options that are meaningful before and after the dot.
Specificity for businesses and products
The profusion of new and exciting naming opportunities is particularly revolutionary for new businesses. New gTLDs offer enterprises the opportunity to build a strong online brand identity using a domain name that directly describes their business, product or service, more so than whatever slim pickings are left in the .com world. A new bike shop, for instance, could try to sign up for a variant of a .com name or instead hop online and register a unique name under .bike—identifying its business with a domain that is targeted directly to the customers it wants to attract.
"Internet addresses are brands, and new gTLDs allow businesses to use addresses as a core element of their brands rather than just as random identifiers."
New gTLDs are an effective choice for businesses looking to drive traffic to their sites. Early studies (including those by Searchmetrics and Total Websites) suggest that addresses registered in new gTLDs are actually easier to find using search engines because they are shorter and more keyword-rich than similar existing domain names. Internet addresses are brands, and new gTLDs allow businesses to use addresses as a core element of their brands rather than just as random identifiers.
Better protections for brands
These domains also come with important new consumer and brand protection safeguards. New gTLDs are subject to far stricter intellectual property protections than existing domains, and brand owners have a suite of new tools with which to protect their marks.
We have seen more brand owners navigate away from outdated existing domains to addresses in more relevant gTLDs. According to Brad Riggan of Liquid Media, an Oklahoma City-based digital creative firm, the switch to a new gTLD was intuitive.
“We changed to liquid.media because we wanted a domain name that represented the meaning of our company,” he says. “This is a precise descriptor that tells our clients and potential clients what we do.”
Applicability to multiple vertical segments
While many domain industry veterans anticipated that broad-audience gTLDs would gain traction rapidly, some did not fully appreciate how quickly brands would build vibrant communities around domains that target highly specific audience demographics.
The appeal of targeted, industry and sector-specific address extensions is evident—take for example the success of new domains such as .photography (52,667 registrations as of February 23, 2015). Online providers of photographic services have a strong affinity with .photography because it allows providers to share that affinity with customers.
The first year of new gTLD availability has provided a promising snapshot of what’s to come in the revolution of online branding, and that’s even before many of the most attractive, general-interest domains such as .app, .music and .shop (which are still in contention) are released.
The promise of new gTLDs is real. Even Wall Street is taking notice. Investment analysts at B Riley & Co forecast that new gTLD registrations could top the 20 million mark by 2016—merely a drop in the bucket
for a resource that is just beginning to be tapped by businesses and consumers across the globe.
Smart companies and organisations are becoming serious about the opportunities for new online identities afforded by new gTLDs. Even with millions of new registrations in place to date, new gTLDs are the most fertile ground available for those looking to build relevant and specific brands on the internet.
Bob Samuelson is vice president of sales and marketing at Donuts. He brings more than 15 years’ domain, brand protection and digital marketing experience to the Donuts team. He can be contacted at: email@example.com
gTLDs, domain names, Donuts Inc