Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Companies, individuals making the most of .guru, .bike

March 10, 2014

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If you’re casting about for an interesting marketing or trends story, here’s one that could be adapted to just about any beat: The new domain names that have become available this year, which allow businesses to shed the run-of-the-mill .com designation in favor of snazzier suffixes like .bank, .guru and even, heaven help us, .Kardashian.

It’s all part of the rollout of some 1,400 new “generic top-level domain names” (or gTLD) as the nomenclature is known, and it’s sanctioned by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, sort of the international sanctioning body of the Internet.  ICANN announced last year in this press release that the Domain Name System which then allowed for 22 GTLDs would be augmented this year, in “the biggest change to the Internet since its inception.”  As ComputerWorld reported, this includes domain names in Arabic, Chinese and Cyrillic script.

The rollout will happen throughout the year as ICANN and registries synchronize their recognition of the new names.

It seems like a mega marketing opportunity for small companies trying to distinguish themselves or to snap up names they lost out on under the limited .com nomenclature; on the other hand; it seems like a good way to frustrate and confuse customers who now are willing to take a stab at finding a URL (“It’s probably JoeHardware.com”) but aren’t going to be willing to plug in umpteen guesses.  Here’s a  “which domain names are right for you” primer of sorts; you might want to buzz around small- and medium-sized businesses on your beat to guage interest and activity in the new URL possibilities.  Talk to marketers about strategies for small businesses; this interesting article reminds companies to “use both sides of the dot.”  For example, with a new .careers suffix, MedicalCareers.com could become simply Medical.Careers.   What other tips do marketers have for companies and for freelancers, contractors and other solo businesspersons?

new domains

Here’s an interesting VentureBeat article, “Why health companies need to protect their products ahead of the new domain rollout,” which addresses the problem of consumer confusion, trademark infringement by new domain names and other concerns that would apply to just about any industry; good fodder for questions as you intereview local execs about the downsides of the new names.

Domain name lawsuits and disputes is another interesting angle; here’s a backgrounder from BitLaw.com that highlights some of the key issues; in a related vein you can explore the wide open field the domain name surge provides for “cybersquatters” — those enterprising folks who snatch up desirable domain names ahead of more logical owners and then turn them over for monetary or other consideration.   Forbes reports that these URL poachers are rushing to claim brand names in the new gTLD territories, with opportunities now exponentially greater.  A new .clothing suffix, for example, is being attached to brand names like Adidas by cybersquatters.

The Economist notes that Fortune 500 companies are trying to get their names (like Ford and Apple) registered as actual domains.  If you have any household name companies in your region, it might be interesting to get an inside view of their anti-cybersquatting strategy.  Do they have tech gurus poised at the rollout of each new gTLD, ready to snipe up the names they want to protect?  Is it possible for companies to make advance deals with domain registries or is the playing field level?

And what is the difference between cybersquatting and “domain investing” ?  (Here is one blogger’s take.) And can you make money snapping up desirable domains? For those curious, here’s “How to make money in domain investing” and a post from domain investing blogger Elliot Silver noting that the new gTLDs will provide lots of “inventory,” — some domain resellers apparently even work trade shows to target likely customers.

The Domain Name Association (DNA) is the trade group for registries and related businesses; the group held its industry meeting, NamesCon, in LA in January and you might glean items of interest from the trade show’s  2014 website, which lists a lot of sponsors and partners.  Peruse the session topics — obviously the domain name change was a big driver of industry buzz and you can pursue the panelists from each topic as experts for your story.

You might also take this opportunity to explain to readers exactly how the Internet is organized, and how these new domain names are entered into the “root zone” of the world wide web by ICANN;  who knew there were issues to be resolved like “domain name collision” and

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