Domain names

The Evolution of New Generic Top-Level Domains

The Evolution of New Generic Top-Level Domains
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Over the past two years, there have been a lot of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) coming out. You see these as .names, .co, .party and thousands of others. Ever since starting a hosting company, I've had countless customers ask about this and why there are so many new and interesting new domains on the market. I decided I would let small business owners and entrepreneurs know what is going on in the world of domains.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was founded to ensure a global and standardized format for the Internet in terms of communication while providing a framework for introducing and promoting a competitive landscape for domain-name registration.

Related: 4 Reasons Why You Should Ditch '.com' for Good

As more domain names were used, ICANN realized that adding a new generic top-level domain (gTLD) program would ensure that the competitive spirit would stay alive in the domain-name space. The gTLD represents a domain-name extension. Many of them are quite familiar, including .com, .net, and .org. However, as the program has continued to flourish since its introduction in 20015, many others have started to be used with the intent that there could be hundreds more in the near future.

To ensure that any new gTLDs fit a set of standards, the ICANN board implemented more contractual and allocation criteria in 2008. The organization has also spent considerable time addressing certain concerns about intellectually property, domain name system (DNS) stability, consumer protection and more.

 In 2011, a Guidebook was approved that offers in-depth information and instruction about future gTLD registration. The respond was tremendous with ICANN receiving nearly 2,000 applications in January 2012 when registration opened. By 2013, ICANN had selected many new gTLDs that could be used going forward.

A January 2015 blog post from ICANN also revealed the tremendous growth in new gTLDs. On a global scale, over nine million domain names have been registered in the new gTLD program. With hundreds of new gTLDs approved and available through a distribution network of more than 200 registrars around the world, the focus has been on how to address universal acceptance of these new TLDs and user issues.

Although the pace of introduction is slow and methodical in order to ensure consistency, accuracy and high standards, there are considerable opportunities to locate a TLD that fits a business niche and identity.

Related: Forget .com. Say Hello to: .bike, .app, .site -- and Many More.

1. TLDs become a tactical component of marketing and branding.

With this evolution as a backdrop, companies are taking on the role of helping businesses and individuals leverage these new gTLDs in order to connect with their target audiences. The wealth of new gTLDs means that companies can find a domain name that more closely resembles their industry, product, cause and brand. Though some companies are skeptical on how well new TLDs perform for search engine optimization (SEO), they are becoming more and more important to brands.

For consumers, the new TLDs provide the benefits of greater availability for their preferred brands as well as memorability and relevance as they search for new product and service solutions. In this way, TLDs have become marketing tools that companies are using to build awareness, generate leads, further differentiate themselves and enhance their brand image.

2. Trends with TLDs

As TLDs continue to grow in popularity, new trends emerge in their use and future application. In noting some of the more recent trends with gTLDs during a third quarter earnings call, registry service provider Rightside’s CEO Taryn Naidu said, “Notably over the past few quarters, China has been the source of significant amount of registration growth. As new Chinese registrars are aggressively distributed, new gTLDs are accounting for 37 percent of total new gTLD registrations. As more and more Chinese consumers and businesses come online, this market is clearly becoming an important source of industry growth.”

Another more recent trend is that global brands such as Sony, Samsung and Barclay's are launching their own new gTLDs to further their brand efforts and stand out in the global online marketplace. Then, other company strategies like Google’s abc.xyz and Apple’s .NEWS are also prime examples of the new ways in which gTLDs are being used. It appears to be working, too, as Apple recently said it has 40 million users for its .NEWS domain.

3. The evolution continues.

With these results, it makes sense to predict more high-profile adoptions are to come as well as further mainstreaming as the understanding about the value and use of these new addresses grows. That means new marketing and branding strategies for companies around the world. At the same time, it appears as though ICANN will continue to re-evaluate the use of gTLDs, adding new standards that will further shape how companies identify themselves online.

Related: Do's and Don'ts of Securing a Domain Name