Significant Domain Announcement
June 30, 2008
Significant Domain Announcement by ICANN…
I am sure many of you do not know who ICANN is. But for anyone that is responsible for your organization’s domain planning and marketing ICANN is someone you should learn about.
ICANN is the world wide governing body for domain name registrations and the associated guidelines. ICANN stands for Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Number. They have existed since the inception of the internet and are comprised of a board of directors, officers and operating staff. I am proud to say an Aussie has been President/CEO since 1993 (Dr. Paul Twomey). The board is comprised of people from around the world that have a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. ICANN’s main offices are located in Marina Del Ray, California and Brussels in Belgium.
And just this week ICANN made one of the most significant decisions on the future of domain names…
OK – how about a quick background on Domain Names…
Domain names are purchased from Registrars. Registrars are organizations that sell domain names (under the authority and guidelines of ICAAN). Registrars are organizations such as GoDaddy, Aplus.NET, Network Solutions just to name a few. ICANN to date has allocated the following extensions that registrars can commercially sell (I have included a basic explanation as to the purpose of the domain extension – or in some cases the intention):
.com – Commercial organizations
.net – Intranets (Internal networks for organizations)
.org – Non profit organizations
.info – Really opened up alterative ways to get a domain (no specific intenion)
.biz – Business organizations (no known difference from .com)
.mobi – Mobile websites (for mobile web devices)
.us – Organizations based in the United States
.bz – The country of Belize- opened up for any commercial use
.cc – Cocas Islands – opened up for any commercial use
.tv – Television based organizations
There are then other domain names that are held for private government or education
use – .gov or .edu – as I am sure you have seen before. Apparently there are
29 domain extensions that currently exist although I don’t know them all…
And then you have the country codes for domain extensions for countries outside the United States (which seems to have defaulted to the .com extension at least initially. Here are just a few examples:
.au – Australia
.gb – Great Britain
.uk – United Kingdom
.ca – Canada
.it – Italy
These country code extensions exist as an extension to .com (for example – .com.au (would be Australia). These domain extensions have been sold as a general bases to organizations within a particular country. From what I understand initially you could not register a domain name without your particular country code. I don’t believe this is now the case.
I would also note this was a loose interpretation from day one. Many organizations and folks (and squatters) in Australia, Canada or United Kingdom registered .coms – so the rules of having to purchase domains only with your own country’s extension was never a clear and fast rule. But based on the country codes and the logical bases of business around the world registrants are located all over the world and are assigned the rights to sell domain names in regional areas. (so therefore you cannot buy a domain name from another country thru a registrar commissioned to sell US based domains. (sorry to be so confusing – just telling you like it is!)
So that is where we where until the new announcement last week!
In a nutshell ICANN has approved the release of new class of domain extensions…
The big news out of Paris last week where ICANN was holding their annual meeting was the announcement of new domain extensions that are known as gTLD’s – Generic Top Level Domains domain extensions that could actually be a company name, an industry or a geographical place like a city. To explain this (and using the examples I have seen) – lets say that the domain extension – .nyc is released. This would be the logical extension name for New York City. Now when you think about the number of business located in New York City this would seem somewhat logical with the .nyc identifying they are located in New York City.
From what I understand – ICANN will accept applications for specific extension such as .nyc which I assume would give the owner basic registrar rights to sell (or license) the domain extension. Specially what they can do with that extension is not clear right now but I am will make the assumption the extension will then be sold just like any other registrar would sell them.
So lets say there may be 10,000 business that buy .nyc domains which will be probably based on a set of guidelines set by the owner of the .nyc domain. A good example would be that you must be a legally operating business (or organization) located in New York City to be able to purchase the extension. Just to make sure you are following – an example might be the New York Yankees – http://www.yankees.nyc.
Now lets have a look at another example that is industry based (versus geography)…
I have already read that .travel will be a very likely candidate as a domain extension. (The Travel Industry). In this particular case the domain extension is industry focused. (as apposed to .nyc which is geographically focused). Identifying which organization might be able to apply for this type of name is simply not clear right now. But once they obtain that name then the extension could be used in a variety of ways.
It may be that a large travel wholesalers acquires the domain name and then sells (or licenses) the extensions to their affiliate network – so you may end up with 10,000 .travel organizations. For example – http://www.australia.travel – which might be be an affiliate that specializes in Australian Travel. What the .travel extension assures you of is that the website will be industry focused – and as you would clearly know by know – .com could be anything. You can bet Real Estate will also be looking at this very closely – most likely .realestate will be a much sought after extension.
SO This is definately “GUESS WORK” at this stage…
I must say that with this announcement by ICANN it is really a guessing game who and what domain extensions will become available and really what applications will be accepted. Actually it appears to be very general in terms of FAQ’s posted on ICANN’s website in relation to the new launch. There is no specific date planned (sometime in 2009) – and basically you apply by application. There will be an application fee – but it is not clear how much the cost would be. And the rules and guidelines for the actual domain extensions are not listed anywhere.
You could assume the rules of other domain extensions would exist and that the owner of the domain extension would make their own rules (to maintain the integrity of the domain – and therefore maintain its value). Just to emphasize this point – .info extensions are now selling for $1.95 – (versus the standard $10.00 for .com’s) – based on the supply and demand of .info’s. In other words it is not seen as a very strong domain extension.
You can definitely bet that trade marks will be closely looked at in this process (more so than ever before). I am sure the only groups that can register .coke – will be Coca Cola.
The main clarification from ICANN is that these domain names will help create greater opportunity to their stakeholders (NO IDEA WHO THEY ARE SPECIFICALLY) – and also creating greater “clarity” and “opportunity” with domain name convention. I did notice that one of the ICANN board members is with GOOGLE – so that might give you some idea as to where some of the board’s direction and influence come from. I suspect GOOGLE would be clearly a “Stakeholder”.
So What Does This Mean to Search Engines?
Improving the Internet and in particular the ability for a search engine to get a web browser to “what they are actually looking for” is a high priority. From everything I have read – Web 3.0 will be the advent of much smarter search engines. Working with many clients (and my own company) on SEO – I am amazed at the amount of non relevant information that comes up on searches. So with that in mind – does this naming convention help in the search engine department?
Well my current answer is I hope so! We won’t really know until the domain names start to show up (and end up in search engines). It may be that this preludes search engines that are specifically industry or geographically focused. Of course don’t think there hasn’t been lots of search engines (including Yellow Pages) that are focused on industry categories and geography already. The fact is GOOGLE is what everyone uses to search the web. More likely these domains extensions may have a higher ranking in google when the topic is searched for – whether it be geography or industry based.
In other words someone wants to find a travel website to do some research on their upcoming trip and they search google for Australia + Travel. In today’s current search this brings up websites that contain the phase “Australia” and “Travel”. When you think about that that is a lot of ‘irrelevant websites” ranging from tourism websites to Johnny’s school project on Traveling to Australia. It may well be that a website such as www.australia.travel may have a high ranking based on its extension.
This works the same for geography. Lets say you are looking up landscape gardeners in Wilson County (TN). So you go to your favorite search engine (or you just plain old google it)… with the search words – Landscape Gardener + Wilson County + TN (as there are multiple Wilson Counties in the United States – 3 that I am aware of… makes you wonder which one might end up with .wilsoncounty as an extension) – but for this example lets say it is Wilson County, TN.
With google currently when you type in these search phrases you end up with your top ten searches including 2 Curriculum Vitae’s that mention Wilson County, a 2001 Gardening Conference website held in Wilson County, a Myspace Account from someone who lives in Wilson County, several search & business listing engines, and a few actual landscaping business.
Again it would make sense that if a .wilsoncounty extension exists that the business you are searching for with a .wilsoncounty extension would have higher ranking (than someone’s resume). BUT – I will have to say the words you use in your search could still make it harder work for searcher (no matter how smart the search engine is). Of course if you think about this for more than a minute you may also wonder about the .gardener extension or .landscapegardner extension as an industry. It may very be that companies continue to use multiple domain name as they simply cannot control the searches key words…
Where do we go from here?
As I state constantly in my weekly blog education and learning is a key commitment to your success on the internet. For our BeareWare clients we will be looking closer at ICANN’s announcements (and more objective articles as they appear on the web) to make sure we can let our clients if and when an application may be relevant to file and what effect this may have on their business or industry in the future.
I have recognized over the last 12-24 months that geography is really important in relationship to websites (and SEO). Frankly who cares about a business located in Hong Kong when you are searching for a company in your home town. (which is more often the case than not).
The premise of being of the world wide web and accessible to people all over the planet are only important to people selling a product or service world wide. The rest are really focused on a demographic which includes a defined geography. So if ICANN does open up geography such as big cities or counties or states – and the search engines can use these extensions with assurity that they are geographically accurate – this may well be a good thing. I think the same applies for an extension within an industry.
So be sure to think about your own business, industry and geography and talk with a domain planning professional to help keep you up to date with this very interesting development…
Peter Beare – Webmaster
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Peter Beare is CEO of BeareWare, a Website Design & Development Company located just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Since building his first website for a local sports club in 1998 Peter has been a webmaster. Over the last 10 years Peter’s duties with BeareWare have included website planning, design and development, website marketing and sales, as well as database application programming & project management. But when all is said and done, Peter is still a webmaster and this is “Interview with a Webmaster“.