The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was created in 1998 to oversee a number of Internet-related tasks previously performed directly on behalf of the U.S. government and other organizations, notably the management of the Internet’s system of centrally coordinated identifiers like IP addresses and “top-level domains” (gTLDs). In the 1980s, seven gTLDs (.com, .edu, .gov, .int, .mil, .net, and .org) were created. In years following the creation of the original gTLDs, various discussions occurred concerning additional gTLDs, leading to the selection of four new gTLDs (.biz, .info, .name, and .pro). Then, three new gTLDs were created (.aero, .coop, and .museum), and in 2003, ICANN initiated a process that resulted in the introduction of six new gTLDs (.asia, .cat, .jobs, .mobi, .tel, and .travel).
Why am I giving you a history lesson on the Internet? Some of you may not care and just want to hit the send button on the next campaign, but others are now intrigued – not realizing there were other gTLDs out there that you haven’t used in your email branding. To make things even more interesting, on June 20, 2011, ICANN finally moved forward with opening up thousands of personalized gTLDs, which will cost upwards of $185,000 per gTLD.
Many expect large companies with big money to go out and register something like .bank, which could be used as bankofamerica.bank vs. bankofamerica.com, and drink companies could use coke.soda or diet.coke or, better yet, nike.shoes or justdoit.nike. Many associations such as political parties could choose .democrat, which could be used for the city you live in like dallas.democrat for party association. See the picture here? To the right of the period are no longer the .com or .org gTLDs that have culturally been synonymous with the Internet.
Are you seeing the branding potential? Now, of course, if you wanted to pay the $185,000 application fee to gain access to your own gTLD and then sell domains for a fee, you could in essence become a registrar (those are the guys who sell domain names for $8 a year), but I doubt that companies except the bigger ones would even consider paying to make macbookair.apple or iphone.apple or ipad.apple. As it stands today, .info and .biz never really took off. Heck, I have a .net for a personal domain and that was only because the .com version was taken 13 years ago.
So what does all this mean? Well, for starters you need to be thinking about your branding over the next few years as this comes into play. How could you use this sort of branding in your emails? Are you interested in either paying $185,000 and creating a gTLD that represents your brand like .shoes or simply buying a domain name cheaply off the company/person who created the .shoes gTLD and getting nike.shoes for $8?
This is a good time for companies with strong brands to sit down and discuss the trademark concerns they might have with these new ideas. What happens if you’re Coca-Cola and someone else grabs .coke before you do? Well, never fear, there are trademark dispute processes involved in this, but it will be costly, like any trademark case would be. You (and your attorneys) should consider registering any unregistered common law trademarks with the Patent and Trademark Office to fortify any potential claims against anyone who may use unregistered marks as part of a new domain name.
You should also be looking at whether or not your email service provider or in-house mailing systems can handle these new domain structures. I would think that many of the older systems that have not been updated over the years might reject these if you attempted to place a “from” address as firstname.lastname@example.org when the system checks expected one of the older gTLDs such as email@example.com.
Also, understand that this may not even be in your best interest as it could be costly and confusing to the end user. Again, let’s face it…people are used to the old familiar .com gTLD. Is it worth it to cause some branding confusion with your customers? Possibly not…
There is also the issue of which domain or gTLD is your email reputation associated with? The old mybrand.com or mybrand.type? Could you possibly get blocked because others using the same gTLD are causing issues? Possibly…
This is a good time for marketers and their IT staff to sit down and understand the implications and impacts to your branding and technology. What will you decide to do? Go forward with the future of Internet domains or sit back and use what you already know you have?