Like most new business owners launching a website, you may have had a tough time finding a meaningful domain name that has yet to be taken. If it’s not already in use, then it’s probably up for sale by some domain registrar. Beginning this year, however, the World Wide Web will see a whole host of new generic top-level domains (gTLD) go live following the recent approval from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), creating a wider range of URL options beyond the typical .com and .net. Business analysts are waiting to see what effects, if any, the new gTLD will have on small businesses.
ICANN oversees a number of Internet-related tasks, including Internet protocol numbers and Domain Name System roots. In 2012, the organization announced plans to expand gTLDs from 22 to over 1,000. A gTLD is the text that is located to the right of the dot in URL. You’re likely familiar with most of the 22 original gTLDs that have been in use for the past decade: .com, .net, .org, .info. The new domain names that are being rolled out starting this year vary greatly, but are mostly industry-specific: .news, .adult, .money are just some examples of the most popular new gTLDs.
The question on many analysts mind is how the new gTLDs will affect small businesses. Will it hurt or hinder their ability to successfully market themselves online?
It could turn out a few ways.
Small businesses with .com URLs that were forced to use less-than-catchy domain names due to limited availability may find themselves facing more adversity as industry-specific gTLDs make their mark on search engines. A pizza delivery business that purchased a clunky .com URL, for instance, might be easily overtaken by more relevant .pizza websites in terms of web traffic, posing a challenge for already established small businesses.
On the other hand, small businesses that implement a gTLD strategy may be more successful at driving up their search engine rankings and receiving higher click rates. Of course, a small pizza shop is unlikely to get more page views than Dominos.com or PizzaHut.com, but having a .pizza domain might just steal away a few clicks from those major .com players in the pizza business.
Another possible result that we’ll see come out of the introduction of new generic domain names is that large corporations will gain a stronghold on the new gTLDs, squeezing out small businesses. In fact, ICANN has chosen to delegate entire gTLDs and applying for one costs $185,000, giving small businesses little say in the future of gTLDs. A small town plumber wanting to launch a website with the gTLD .plumbing will have to buy it from Spring Tigers, LLC – the company that was awarded the .plumbing gTLD. Additionally, popular gTLDs like .law are expected to be put up for auction due to the number of worthy applications being submitted and some gTLDs are may sell for millions of dollars.
It remains to be seen what effects these new gTLDs will have on small businesses. Most likely, very few small business owners will be attributing their success to new gTLDs in a few years’ time. Introduced by ICANN to offer wider URL choices and to increase competition, new gTLDs will probably not be any help to small businesses, even if .pizza and .car do catch on.