When the Internet was young, waaaay back in 1998, there were seven basic domain extensions: .com, .gov, .edu, .net, .org, .int and .mil. Today, there are more than 200 extensions, and during 2014 and 2015, more than 1,300 new generic top-level domains (GTLDs) could be introduced. Many of the proposed extensions are brand-specific – for instance, .ferrari and .bestbuy. But others, including dozens more that have been recently approved, appeal to much broader designations: .club, .guru or .luxe for example. Others are based on geographic regions and still more offer potential appeal to industry segments, like .yacht, .farm or .solar.
There are certainly advantages to the rollout of additional domain extensions. The web has grown – and continues to grow – exponentially, and that means a shortage of good and brand-recognizable web names for new companies. New extensions can help mitigate that issue. What’s more, substantially increasing the number of available website domain names also wreaks havoc with so-called squatters who purchase web names and then hold them hostage for extreme sums, hoping businesses that need them will come knocking. Yes, the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) enacted in 1999 provides some protection, but rulings under the law have been less than crystal clear.
From a business standpoint, the addition of new domain extensions means a chance at establishing a site that is more in line with your company’s products or services, and it also gives you another chance to grab a name that’s closer to your company if you’ve been locked out by squatters or other companies who claimed a name before you did.
There’s still some debate about whether browsers and search engines will have difficulty grappling with the new extensions, but it seems those concerns have little basis. New domain names have been added in the past with no disruption of service or rankings.
From a consumer’s point of view, things may be a little trickier. Most people are accustomed to the use of .com when it comes to learning website names, and to a lesser extent, .net or .org. At least initially, other extensions may be viewed with some degree of skepticism or mistrust, especially among those not “privy” to ICANN’s plan to roll out extensions over time.
Taking all these factors into consideration, the big question remains: Should you be considering adding a domain – or two, or more – for your business? Like many branding decisions, the answer depends on your business’ own needs. If you feel an addition of a new extension could increase your customer base or make it more likely to get a better-sounding name for your site, then landing it might not be a bad idea. But if you already have a well-established customer base and your website name doesn’t seem to be standing in the way of your online sales, you may decide adding another site isn’t for you. Of course, buying your current domain name with additional extensions could possibly prevent confusion down the road when another business opens up a .thingamajig with the same primary domain name as yours (no, .thingamajig hasn’t been proposed as a new extension – yet). In that case, you might want to buy new domains to protect your company’s brand.
Of course, buying new domains doesn’t mean you’ll need to have a site built for each of them. You can link the new domain name to your existing site and simply have visitors forwarded when they type in the new name. You can see a list of extensions already approved by ICANN here: http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/program-status/delegated-strings. Keep up on the status of the extension rollout here: http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/.