Are The New Dot Coms Just A Massive Scam?

Want to know more about the possibility of new dot coms hitting the internet scene? Just have a look at the snazzy slideshow Dija created below. It will give you a fun and easy to understand introduction to the whole topic. 





Now that you’ve come to grips with the basics read my more in depth report on why generic TLDs are probably nothing more than ‘just a cynical money making ploy’.
 

gtlds.jpg

 
The only way forward for a company hell-bent on a totally future-proof domain strategy is to hire a domain name strategy company, (yes, they actually exist) and for a min. five-figure sum they will come up with the (probably dubious) answer.
 

Some high-level TLDs like '.skin' under the new 'generic TLD' programme already appear to have been allocated.  But whether that will be a real benefit to the likes of L'Oreal in the long term is very dubious.
 

We had a lot of discussion about the TLD expansion here. I have to say that we found far more questions than answers.  Either way, these were the key things that emerged:

 
  • There seem to have been around a thousand new TLDs that have emerged from the current expansion.


  • Most of the mega-brands (Coca Cola, Ford, Amazon etc.) seem to have successfully claimed their own TLD.


  • The cost of an application for a new TLD  is $185,000.


  • Exclusivity of usage seems a moot point.  So while you might expect L’Oreal to want to use the .skin TLD exclusively, it appears that e.g. ‘.builder’ would be bought by a domain registry company to re-sell to all builders who wanted it and were prepared to pay a premium for it.


  • ICANN stand to make $375m from applications.
 

I recall that when ICANN asked for comments prior to the opening application submission, the vast majority were negative.  Our conclusion is that TLDs will go away or at least become invisible, and won’t be important for brands for these reasons:

 
Let’s take a brand like Amazon. 

 
Is Amazon a valuable brand today because it got in early and got a jump on the emerging world of domain names (the equivalent today in the words of one of the domain name providers set to make a fortune out of expanded TLDs of): Understanding the new gTLDs and keeping an eye on their progress can be a great chance to get a foot in the door right at the beginning of something big, and to buy some really valuable virtual real estate.” - or because it chose a distinctive brand name, and created the most effective infrastructure and the most powerful proposition of its kind?

 
Or say Asda.

 
Would ASDA be more of a brand if it chose to register Asda.grocery? than Tesco.com that didn’t?  Would Google attribute more authority to Asda for the use of the TDL ‘grocery’ than to Tesco? All the evidence about Google’s approach says that it wouldn’t.

 
If you look at our everyday use of Internet addresses, few people today ‘think URL’.  Most people ‘shop on Amazon’, not even ‘Amazon.com’, and no one today says: “go to http://www-dot-amazon-dot-com”.


The Internet has collaborated to make the “http://’ redundant to ordinary users and I predict that it in practice it will do that with TLDs.  And in fact those companies that use ‘.net’ or ‘.eu’ for example, are just advertising that they missed the chance to secure the main TLD for their chosen brand name. 


(We would argue however that as a comforting level of security, the idea that only a genuine government website could offer for instance a tax portal on ‘.gov’ has merit for consumers, but that TLD has been around for a while and isn’t part of the new explosion in TLDs.)
 

What about geo-targeting? Currently the most commonly used TLDs represent countries, with the obvious anomaly being .com that seems generally to be the highest level of TLD for a business, but still to imply registration in the US.  Clearly multi-nationals have also made good use of geo-located TLDs to localise their offering. 


Google has colluded by allowing site-masters to facilitate geo-targeting those local domains to their target locations via Webmaster Tools etc.  Most of this work is back-room stuff though, and rightly invisible to consumers.  Amazon users for example expect to be, and almost certainly will be pointed to Amazon.co.uk if they are in the UK and simply type ‘Amazon’ into Google. 


When it comes to new gTLDs like ‘.london’ or ‘.paris’ we have our doubts too.  If you type in ‘Hard Rock Café London’ in Paris, Google has enough to go on to resolve to the Hard Rock London’s website (www.hardrock.com/cafes/london as it is now) without needing a www.hardrock.london  (or www.hardrock.london/cafes/london !) address to know.
 

As if this wasn’t enough stacked against the plethora of new gTLDs, there are two more factors that we think will work against them providing any value.  The first is the decline in generic search volumes.  In a recent investigation we found that the volume of search for online sports goods retailer Wiggle by brand overtook the volume of search for ‘bicycle parts online’ about eight years ago, and the brand search volume is now 10x that of the generic term. 


Google have become very explicit in pointing out that it will no longer favour e.g. www.bicyclepartsonline.com over something abstract but very high authority like www.wiggle.com.   


So you are not any more likely to get a jump on Wiggle by registering www.onlinesportsco.bicycle  than you would have been by registering www.bicyclepartsonline.com.  The other factor is that we believe that with the decline in generic search and growth of brand-related terms as a shortcut to the brand’s site, TLDs, like http:// and www will increasingly become invisible to the consumer. 


Like a lot of technological advancements, just when you thought talk of the ‘semantic’ web – the one that ‘knows what you mean and what you want’ was just that, and wasn’t going to happen, the web now has enough signals about your whereabouts, your preferences and priorities to know what you meant by your crude search term and not need a ‘pedantic’ TLD to tell it!
 

So to summarise, we think that gTLDs will demise and effectively go away.  The underlining reason will be that they offer no meaningful benefit to users of the Internet, and exist mainly to generate vast sums of money for ICANN from mega brands, land grabbers and cyber-squatters – a not totally unsatisfactory symmetry in our view.
 

Bottom line:

Unless you're Coca Cola and can afford to hedge your bets – forget about generic TLDs and invest in brand awareness. Tweet this.
 

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