The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently opened the doors for yet more new top-level domains (TLDs). TLDs, which are part of the Domain Name System (DNS), such as .com and .net, are the last label of fully qualified domain names. These are used to give human readable addresses to the Internet's cryptic IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. So far, so good. Now, for no really good reasons, ICANN plans on adding as many as two thousand new TLDs.
At $185,000 per application, ICANN has over 2,000 applications for such proposed new TLDs as .AARP. .AMERICANFAMILY, and .SEX. The delusion, excuse me, idea behind this is that there's a pent up demand for more TLDs. I don't think so.
True, people like Frank Schilling, who made his millions from grabbing domain names after the dot com crash, is trying to increase his fortune by grabbing 54 new TLDs. He says, ""This is absolutely the future. We're at this point where the dot-com name space -- the entire name space -- is exhausted."
That's true. But, that rather proves the problem. People want .com addresses. They'll settle for an .info or .biz if they must, but do they really want say an .ASSOCIATES or .BUSINESS? I don't think so.
Take, for example, the .XXX TLD. Remember it? The TLD for porn? How well do you think it did? Well, as my friend and colleague Violet Blue, who knows a thing or two about porn, pointed out that .XXX would be the first of the meaningless TLDs. She was right. As Blue shows in her latest analysis of the .XXX numbers, there aren't that many active sites and they're not at all popular.
You might argue that the .XXX TLD were an abbreviation, that they were doomed from the start since no one in their senses would want a URL ending with the low-rent TLD of .XXX. Really do you really think that .CASINO, .POKER, or .PORN will do any better?
Sure some of the new TLDs live in higher-rent districts. Google, for example, besides grabbing the obvious .GOOGLE TLD, is also trying via its Charleston Road Registry subsidiary for .YOUTUBE and .LOL. But, really that's just Google extending their brand. Microsoft is following a similar policy with TLD name grabs for .HOTMAIL and .WINDOWS. I think you can be pretty darn sure that nobody, except the owning companies, will be using any of these TLDs. So, forget about setting up say hotgirls.hotmail in this life-time.
ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom claims that these new TLDs will benefit users by creating domain name registry competition. I can't see it. I just see more confusion and companies have to waste a lot of money protecting their trademarks on hundreds more TLDs. What I do see though is that Beckstorm has admitted that ICANN has collected more than $352 million in new TLD application fees.
These new TLDs won't be showing up quickly. Beckstorm said that ICANN will consider the 2,000 odd proposed TLDs in batches of 500. The first batch won't be approved for nine-months. The last may not be approved until 2015.
The TLDs that would-be domain TLD millionaires are going to fight over--.APP, .HOME, .INC, and the ever popular .PIZZA--have the same problem as .BIZ. They're not .COM. Who will end up with these new generic TLDs? Good question. ICANN has given WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) the authority to settle who get which of the new TLDS. I expect it will take years before anyone can buy any of the new generic TLDs as the lawyers slug it out in front of WIPO.
Perhaps one or more of these new TLDs will be worth something. Certainly some people, like Juan Diego Calle is trying their best to make otherwise obscure TLDs, .CO in Calle's case something people will want to buy for their domain name. In the example of .CO, Twitter uses t.co for its URL shortening service so this TLD actually has one truly popular site.
I think the vast majority of the new TLDs are going to be a waste of time and money for Website owners. Doubt me? Here's some food for thought from an academic study of how important the .BIZ TLD was in 2011 (PDF Link), ten-years after it was introduced. The researchers found that, "The biz TLD occurs 140 times less frequently than com in the Alexa [A site that tracks the popularity of Web sites] 1 million, 323 times less frequently in the Alexa 500 (based on 1 occurrence), and 218 times less frequently in the Open Directory Project. Note that the com zone is about 46 times larger than biz. Although not a formal assessment of usage, these statistics suggest a disproportionally lower popularity of biz compared to com." So, sure go ahead and get one of those new TLDs for your next Web site, just don't expect anyone to visit you there.