In the past few months, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has opened floodgates and let loose a deluge of new domain name extensions (or gTLDs). Historically, the unrestricted gTLDs have been limited to .COM, .NET, and .ORG – with a few additions in the early 00s, such as .BIZ, .INFO, and .NAME – but with the current expansion, ICANN is on course to add hundreds (if not thousands) of new TLDs before the end of 2014.
This has led people to question whether or not the “traditional” gTLDs of .COM, .NET, and .ORG are still as important as they once were. We, however, believe that the new gTLDs are unlikely to supplant the traditional gTLDs any day soon – for a variety of reasons. Read on for the details.
Because the new gTLDs are, well, new, it means that the people registering domains under them can, for the most part, be divided into two main camps. The first are owners of large organizations who already own a .COM domain (or a domain with one of the other traditional gTLDs), who register their existing domains under the new gTLDs mainly to prevent others from doing so. The first group usually does this to protect themselves from the second group: domain squatters, online fraudsters, and others who see benefit from using new gTLDs to impersonate websites that use the more established gTLDs. The remainder are mostly limited to people using the more-exotic gTLDs for “domain hacks” (using the extension to spell out a word, E.g. “delic.io.us” or “goo.gl”).
There is the perception that expanding the available gTLDs will give people the opportunity to purchase domain names that they couldn’t get as .COM or one of the other traditional gTLDs – but, aside feeding the perception of newer gTLDs as “consolation prizes, the problems with that rationale should be apparent after reading the previous paragraph. If you purchase a domain name under a new gTLD and that domain already exists as a .COM or other older gTLD, then there’s a good chance that a significant amount of your potential visitors will end up on the .COM site instead of yours – because most people are familiar with .COM and it’s the first thing many will try when typing in a website address they’re unsure of. And that’s probably the best-case, assuming that the owners of the .COM equivalent haven’t already registered their domain under the new gTLD during its pre-order/”sunrise” phase, and assuming that the .COM equivalent isn’t covered by a trademark (which can lead to seizure of “infringing” domains & other legal issues). Because of these factors, some have cynically suggested that the only groups benefiting from the gTLD expansion are ICANN and trademark lawyers.
Barring major changes by ICANN, this leads to a seemingly-insurmountable chicken-or-the-egg problem for the new gTLDs: to become as established/desirable as .COM, they need the same level of adoption, but the largest barrier to adoption for new gTLDs is the fact that .COM is already so well-established. The traditional gTLDs like COM simply have too much of a lead at this point, there’s no way for new gTLDs to “catch up” so to speak. The best example of this it the previous, much smaller expansion of the gTLDs: despite the fact that the .INFO and .BIZ gTLDs have been around for nearly 15 years now, they’re still barely a blip on the radar compared to .COM and the other traditional gTLDs.
So while there are situations where it makes sense to consider one of the newer gTLDs (or a country-specific TLD like .CA), we still recommend .COM first when customers ask is which TLD they should use for a new domain name. And that’s not likely to change for the foreseeable future.
- Stephen B.
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