June 19, 2012

ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is the group that approves the part of the Internet address that comes after the dot (the domain name extension). Originally, they authorized three: .com, .net, and .org. Currently they allow 22, but they are in the process of adding thousands more. Last week ICANN released a new list of 1,000+ proposed domain names. ICANN President Rod Beckstrom says that they received more than 1,900 requests for new domain names during the application period, which ended in May. Each application required a payment of $185,000, so it is certainly a big league game.

Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Google all applied for domain name extensions related to their name. Dot-app was one of the most sought after names (13 requests to own that one). There were three requests for dot-dog, none for dot-cat. Dot-love, dot-wedding, dot-sexy and dot-porn also made the list of proposed domain names. None have been approved yet and they may not be. None will enter the Internet until they have undergone a rigorous, objective and independent evaluation according to Beckstrom.

So, what is the marketing value of having one of the new 1,000+ domain extensions? In my opinion, it will eventually be zero. How in the world is anyone going to remember that many different domain extensions?

When my partners and I launched a website (Oregon retirement) in 2005 we had to choose .info  because the top three (.com, .net, .org) were not available. When we launched our national site earlier this year (RetireUSA) we choose .net  because it was available. Traffic is growing much faster with .net than .info. So, yes, there is value to a domain extension, but how many will reach a critical mass to develop consumer awareness?

The dramatic expansion of domain extensions will make search engines optimization (SEO) even more in the driver’s seat for most businesses. Few people will remember thousands of unique extensions. They will simply go to their favorite search engine and type in the name of the company. The marketing challenge will be getting people to remember what is in front of the dot, not after it. That means brand awareness. Save your money. Put $185,000 into building your brand.

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