Vint Cerf, Google's Chief Internet Evangelist and widely acknowledged inventor of the Internet as we know it, blogged last week about Google's efforts to take advantage of the expanded availability of new top-level domain names (in addition to the .com, .net, .org, and .edu we all know and love). Google has applied for everything from the obvious .google and .youtube to more whimsical .lol top-level domains.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN, also formerly headed by Cerf), recently began accepting applications for custom top-level domains. Although it has struggled with a variety of technical glitches, it ended the process on May 30th after receiving over 1900 applications. At $185,000 per application, Google applied for several that included (according to Cerf's blog post):
- Our trademarks, like .google
- Domains related to our core business, like .docs
- Domains that will improve user experience, such as .youtube, which can increase the ease with which YouTube channels and genres can be identified
- Domains we think have interesting and creative potential, such as .lol
cnn.com also covered this story and pointed out that
With domains like .law and .sport, many suitors are expected to battle for the same coveted keyword. So if multiple applicants want a single domain, and ICANN deems them equally worthy, the name goes to auction -- which could end up costing millions for the winning bidder.
Even if two keywords aren't exactly the same, "confusingly similar" domain suffixes are forbidden. For example, if an apple farmers' union grabs .apples, then iGizmo maker Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) would be blocked permanently from registering .apple.
It certainly looks as though we're on the edge of a new era of cybersquatting, although the stakes are much higher here and the capital required to obtain a TLD is drastically more than that required for a standard domain. It also remains to be seen how the owners of these new TLDs will sell or license subdomains. Will I be able to register chrisdawson.lol through Google, for example? Or will they be exclusively for lolcats YouTube channels?
Similarly, we may be entering a new chapter in the Internet haves vs. have-nots. Only big players will be able to obtain these uniquely branded TLDs; smaller companies will be effectively shut out of the process due to the high cost of entry. While anyone can come up with a clever domain and register it for a few dollars, such is not the case with vanity TLDs. Will this have any effect on SEO going forward? Again, it's hard to say what the implications are since we're so early in the process. Clearly, though, and not surprisingly, Google will be at the center of it.