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New Top-Level Domains Emerging

Robert Birkner

With all the buzz surrounding new Top-Level Domain (nTLDs) at the last ICANN meeting in Mexico, I am sure many of you have already encountered or read information regarding the latest applications. For those who haven't been staying abreast of the latest, here is a quick review:

There are two different general types of TLDs — gTLDs and ccTLDs. ICANN is now opening the possibility of adding further TLD extensions, which can virtually be anything.

gTLDS: (generic Top-Level Domains)
.asia - "From ASIA - for ASIA". Introduced in 2007.
.biz - For businesses. Introduced in 2001.
.com - For everyone, though intended for commercial registrants. Introduced in 1985.
.info - For everyone and as a general purpose TLD. Introduced in 2001.
.mobi - For Mobile content on phones and PDAs. Introduced in 2005.
.name - For individuals and personal information. Introduced in 2001.
.net - For everyone, though intended for network providers. Introduced in 1985.
.org - For everyone, though intended for organizations and not-for-profits. Introduced in 1985
more...

ccTLDs: (country code Top Level Domains)
Two-letter TLDs designated for a particular country or autonomous territory to facilitate communication and service within that country or territory.

.DE - Deutschland (Germany, managed by DENIC e.G.)
.UK - United Kingdom (managed by Nominet)
.BE - Belgium (managed by DNS .BE)
.CN - China (managed by CNNIC)
.CA - Canada (managed by CIRA)
.US - United States of America (managed by NeuStar)
The entire list can be viewed under IANA.

nTLDs: (new Top Level Domains)
ICANN is opening up the TLD namespace with virtually anything under the sun. Basically anything to the right of the "dot" goes and right now there are many vying for control of these new extensions. Though the following list is not complete or 100% accurate, many applicants have already identified themselves:

.RADIO
.ECO (Ecological)
.GREEN (Ecological)
.MOVIE (Movie/Film Industry)
.FAM (Family)
.MUSIC (Music)
.HEALTH (dot health)
.SPORT (dot Sport)
.INDIGI (for indigenous peoples)
.NYC (New York City)
.BERLIN (Berlin Germany)
.PARIS (Paris France)
.BZH (Brittany, a region in France)
.ENG (England, a kingdom in the U.K.)
.GAL (Galicia, a region in Spain)
.MED (Mediterranean)
.LLI (Leonese Language and Leonese Culture)
.GAY
.WEB
.POST
.MAIL (for emails and to control spam)
.GEO (generic geographical locations)
.XXX (Adult Entertainment)
.BCN (Barcelona)
.LAT (Latin America)

As we can all see, the list continues to grow wildly. I am sure I am missing many potential applications. Additionally, there are clearly some nTLDs applications essentially competing for the same theme or market. On top of this, there may also be multiple applicants for the same TLD, meaning we may see X number of organizations apply for .mail or .xxx.

A major risk for these nTLD applications is whether they have a viable business model to support their nTLD in the long run. Last year I wrote the article, "Is the Market Ready for new TLDs", which covers the pros and cons of these nTLDs from a registrar perspective. In a nutshell, of all these nTLDs who is actually going to be operational and profitable in 3 to 5 years. And if one or many of these nTLDs fold, what are the consequences? My fear is that many nTLDs will disappear agan within the next 5 years or will change hands multiple times.

By Robert Birkner, Chief Strategy Officer, HEXONET GmbH
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Can a new TLD succeed? Daniel R. Tobias  –  Jun 02, 2009 5:12 PM PDT

My opinion, through many rounds of new TLDs over many years, has always been that the best shot a new TLD has to succeed is if it has a well-defined purpose, and good "uptake" of usage within its targeted community.  The vague, broad-based domains like .info, .biz, and .web if it ever is added to the root, were in my opinion unlikely to succeed as anything other than "poor stepsisters" of the older TLDs (especially .com), even though I personally liked .info as an address for informational sites (and use it myself).  More specialized domains like .museum, .aero, and .coop had a real shot if the specialized groups they were aimed at actually used them across the board; maybe they'd never make that much of a splash with the general public, but they could have become fixtures in their narrow field at least, and might have cumulatively increased public awareness of alternative TLDs.  However, none of them ever did get such wide usage; when I go through airports and museums I never notice any .aero or .museum domains among the many URLs and e-mail addresses found in signs and brochures there.

It remains to be seen whether any of the profusion of new TLDs in the new batch can manage to get "critical mass" in some narrowly targeted "small pond".  If every radio station decided they wanted their address to be in .radio, that would put that domain on the map, for instance.

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