What’s all the fuss .about ?

ICANN, the governing body for all internet addresses, recently announced a sweeping change to the Domain Name System by increasing the number of gTLDs, or generic top-level domains. Examples of current gTLDs include “.com”, “.net”, “.org” and “.gov”. From January 2012 to April 2012, ICANN will be accepting applications so that internet addresses will be able to end in almost any word in any language. “.imaginuity”? Sure. “.coca-cola”? Yep “.travel”? You bet.

The point of all this you ask? I’m not sure, but Rod Beckstrom, President and CEO of ICANN writes “ICANN has opened the Internet’s naming system to unleash the global human imagination.” However, unless the global human imagination can cough up $185,000 to cover the price tag, not to mention the recurring $25,000 annual fee, these “dot anything” addresses are going to be few and far between. But this does beg the question, why do we need a .imaginuity anyway?

We haven’t had many complaints that tacking on the “.com” to the end of our name is either difficult to remember nor a time waster. Besides, the “.com” is engrained in all of us now. If I tell you about a great company named “Ferret Bustiers”, chances are you can guess the URL. But it doesn’t matter anyhow, as you’ll simply use your favorite search engine to navigate there.

However, for argument’s sake let’s examine the potential upside of using a unique gTLD for a slightly more global brand. If I want to visit big blue, I hit “ibm.com.” If they decide to bite the bullet and drop some serious coin, I can visit “www.ibm”. Hmm, OK. One could argue that it might shorten some URL strings. Instead of searching for a job at “ibm.com/careers” I could visit “careers.ibm”. Going to be across the pond? Look up “ibm.fr“, or does “france.ibm” make more sense? Not exactly “unleashing imagination” am I?

Fair enough. Let’s say I’m an aspiring entrepreneur and decide to mortgage the house and purchase “.travel” for the purpose of creating an uber-portal for all things travel related. Here’s the rub: a “dot anything” isn’t a brand. Or a company name. It’s a domain extension. “Build it and they will come” doesn’t work here. To get eyeballs to the site I’m going to need to spend some serious cash in SEM, SEO, and online advertising to compete against Orbitz, Expedia, etc. It’s no different than a “.com”. Actually, I take that back. There are 185,000 differences between the two.

Not to mention that broad sweeping “nouns-as-brand names” have proven a bust in the .com world. When’s the last time you bought a pair of shoes from shoes.com. Shopped for a new dining table at furniture.com lately? Didn’t think so. gTLDs such as .travel, .toys, and .jeans won’t fair any better.

Finally, don’t think Google and Yahoo! are going to play along. These portals will be seen as possible new entry points, and potential threats to their search engines, so the chances of me typing “travel” into my trusty Google search bar and having “.travel” returned atop the list won’t happen.

We’ll inevitably see .eBay, .amazon, and .ibm. What they’ll do with those extensions I’m eager to experience.

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