New gTLDs – What do they mean for the internet?

Posted on Apr 17 2013

So Many New TLDs!

While we await the fate of the nearly 2,000 new gTLDs that have been proposed to ICANN, many are wondering what they really mean for the internet. ‘Dot-com’ has become a reflex when referring to web addresses. Are we really going to have to memorize these new extensions? How will search engines adapt to online stores, blogs and other media expanding beyond our safe-haven extensions? It’s hard enough to get someone to remember ‘.net’ or ‘.org’ when you tell them your email address. What are we going to do when we have to ask ourselves ‘was it .shop or .shopping, .new or .now, .web or .website….wtf???’ (no seriously, that’s another potential TLD).

It’s unlikely that much will change within the next few years. Most websites have built their brand on their current TLD (.com, .net, .org, etc.) and will continue using it for fear of losing customers over domain confusion. Remember “O.co”? Overstock.com promoted its new domain, o.co, but the brand Overstock.com had already been established, so that’s where customers were used to going. When customers had to go to o.co to get to Overstock.com, customers became confused, especially since o.co closely resembles o.com (a non-existant website). Ultimately Overstock.com realized it had made a mistake, ditched the .co, and forwarded everything back to overstock.com.

Large corporations purchasing their own branded gTLDs (“bTLDs”) will have to find a convenient way to move customers from one domain to the other. A simple URL forwarding will instantly divert the traffic from bmw.com to whatever.bmw but rest assured some will be confused by the lack of a ‘.com’ at the end of the web address; some may even suspect and report spam. Brands will need to assure their visitors that they have arrived at the correct domain and website.

This brings up the question of will there be a common SLD for bTLDs? Right now www.brand.tld is the easy, universal way to reach a brand’s homepage. But since some brands will be exclusively using their own TLDs, how will we know where to go? Do we go to bmw.bmw, home.bmw, english.bmw, or something else? Will it be the same for every brand? Ugh. A Google search sounds good right about now; of course they’re buying ‘.google’ so who knows what the home address for that one will be!

Search engines will definitely come in handy to find websites using any of the thousand proposed gTLDs being reviewed. How else could we remember .auto, .autoinsurance, .car, .cars, .carinsurance, .insurance or .insure when it comes to a simple auto-insurance website!?!? Today’s reality is only going to become increasingly apparent: we are lost without search engines!

What’s the best search engine? Google it.

Despite there being some well-funded competition, Google is still the best search engine out there. Say what you want, but the search behemoth plowed its way to the top and hasn’t let off the gas for a second. Most organic search traffic can be credited to Google so it’s what website owners want and it’s what SEO experts dedicate their lives to; because what happens on Google, happens everywhere else. If you’re #1 on Google, you’re #1 or very close to it everywhere else.

When hundreds and eventually thousands of new TLDs start popping up, search engines are going to be more necessary than ever to the internet. Afterall, they already know what we want better than we do, don’t they? Anyone else search for the one line you know from a song? (Spoiler alert: it’s not ‘hold me closer Tony Danza‘)

For search engines, the new TLDs should be an easy transition. They already have the parameters in place to recognize quality content, trusted sources, geographical relevance, and filter out the multitudes of spam. These new TLDs just mean indexing the content under a new source.

Now what will be interesting to see is if any of the new gTLDs become saturated with spammers. Since registration will open with a clean slate, many names will be available that already belong to established businesses and organizations. Spammers will be able to register these already trusted names as well as other seemingly-credible domain names.

This brings up another reason search engines will become more valuable. We won’t know which auto-insurance-quotes.whatever is the good one and which isn’t. Is it .com? .net? .auto? .autoinsurance? .insurance? .insure? ..you get the point.

Search engines know how to weed out the sites we don’t want, ranking the most favored sites first based on your particular search query. Depending on how each gTLD is managed, marketed and received by customers, some gTLDs may help your search ranking and some may devastatingly destroy it.

What does it all mean, Basil??

Basically there’s no need to panic. Any major change to our current internet infrastructure is likely years away. While it will make for an interesting change for the internet to have so many new gTLDs available, big brands have learned from disasters like the ‘O.co’ flop not to make changes that could confuse you.

There are sure to be new startups that begin under a new gTLD and therefore build their brand on that platform, making the domain and TLD easier to remember. ‘Dot-com’ is king though, and any change will be gradual and likely problematic (for the new gTLDs that is).

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