Evaluating the list of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) and identifying which ones could be important to your business are critical steps for leveraging potential opportunities. However, marketers should also apply the following key criteria to determine whether specific generics represent valuable Internet real estate investments that are worth the time to acquire and maintain.
Who owns the gTLD? First and foremost, marketers who are interested in a specific gTLD will want to research who owns it, details about their business plan, how they will protect brand owners, their experience in operating a gTLD, whether they are capitalized sufficiently to ensure its success, and whether they partnered with anyone in your industry. All of this information is public record and readily available. By understanding who will own the gTLD, you can begin to make strategic decisions about which generics are relevant to your business. For example, if Google or Amazon owns a gTLD of interest, then you may approach that scenario differently than one owned by an existing or start-up registry. So, if you are interested in .blog, .pet, .mail, .channel, .music, .family, .mom, .review, .pizza, or one of the other hundreds of generics, then start by determining who owns it and how they will ensure its success.
How will the gTLD be marketed? The next key question is how the gTLD owner plans to market the domain and build credibility in the marketplace. For example, Google could package up a domain name in one of its gTLDs with other services it offers. A few of Google's domains will include .cloud, .book, .game, .shop, .film, .drive, .mom, .day, .eat, .movie, .kid., .prof, .talk, and .lol. Do any of those sound lucrative from a branding perspective? As another example, Amazon may create affiliate programs to allow companies to build their websites within their gTLDs. Just a few include .silk, .deal, .buy, .store, .song, .smile, .secure, .room, and .now. The hundreds of other generics are owned by a handful of large registry operators or registrars who are expanding their portfolios, and a number of venture-capital-backed start-up enterprises looking to capitalize on a paradigm shift in the Internet. How will they market top-level domains like .cafe, .bar, .pub, or .restaurants? Will they provide integrity and security to gTLDs like .bank, .pharma, .secure, and others? Once you know how the owners plan to market their domains and who else they will allow in, then you can determine whether it makes sense for your domain name to reside there, and if so, now or in the future.
What will they charge? The next key issue is determining how much each new gTLD owner will charge for securing a domain name. Each registry can set pricing, so if it's a high-demand gTLD, like .app or .book, .blog, .art, or .design, then the owner could charge a higher annual price. You'll still purchase these domains through traditional registrars such as Go Daddy, but pricing will be set by the registry operator. If you are interested in securing domains in numerous new gTLDs owned by the same registry operator, you may want to contact them to determine what options may be available based upon ICANN rules and their specific business plans.
Will your competitors secure a domain in the gTLD? It is also important to consider whether your competitors will move into category-based top-level domains. Will they use these domains as redirects to their home site or will they do something further with them? Monitoring competitors as well as the digital leaders may be the best indicator of potential shifts in consumer behavior. It's particularly important to pay attention to how Google and Amazon court large brands into their domains. Likewise, pay attention to the financial sector and how they begin to market the use of their new closed brand as a source of security.
Can you afford to wait and see? Finally, the linchpin to the analysis is evaluating whether you can afford to wait and see what happens before diving into the pool of new gTLDs. The quick answer is, it depends. If you have a solid trademark (meaning no one holds the same trademark), then this approach is fine. This applies to global famous brands like Coke, Pepsi, Budweiser, and other global consumer goods entities. For other trademarks, it's quite possible that someone else legitimately has the same trademark somewhere else in the world, the most famous example being Delta Air Lines and Delta Faucets. They each have equal trademark rights when it comes to securing domain names. Accordingly, evaluate if any other company with your trademark may secure domains in the new gTLDs that are of interest to you and if so, take action to secure your domain as soon as it's available. On the other hand, if you don't view that situation as a real threat or risk to your business, then take the wait-and-see approach. Likewise, if you are interested in building a new brand or securing high-demand domains for generic terms like money, sex, gambling, restaurants, etc., then you should secure those early. Although the gTLD rollout will not mirror the market's exuberance of acquiring .com domains, there could be demand for those top searchable terms in key categories of new gTLDs.
Jennifer Wolfe is founder and president of Wolfe Domain, a gTLD digital brand strategy advisory firm providing comprehensive guidance to global brands, interactive agencies, domain registrars, and legal counsel representatives on establishing a holistic gTLD name-anchored brand strategy for the next generation of the Internet. As a forward-thinking, accomplished, award-winning attorney and executive leader, she also serves as managing partner of their affiliate law firm WolfeSBMC, specializing in advising on intellectual property and brand campaigns and new media law. With a depth of entrepreneurial savvy, brand knowledge, and legal expertise, Wolfe brings a unique perspective to creating holistic generic top-level domain (gTLD) name-centric brand strategies that effectively bring cross-functional teams together and serve as a catalyst for business innovation.