The popularity of geographical TLDs, often referred to as 'cityTLDs' or 'geoTLDs', certainly appears to be gaining momentum. Various countries and territories have announced their intentions to bid for their own TLD when ICANN's application period opens in mid 2010.
So what makes a geographical TLD such an attractive proposition?
For some cities such as Paris, New York and Sydney, any opportunity to further market their brand to a captive international audience, to get their city online, seems an obvious choice. However, in the instance where countries and territories are not as notable on the world stage, is the value proposition still the same?
It would seem that geographical locations are voting in the affirmative, with an overwhelming yes. AusRegistry International's sessions to familiarise local and international governments and respective city councils with ICANN's new gTLD program, have been met with much interest and enthusiasm. Many cities have already decided to apply for a TLD, whilst others are building business cases to investigate the opportunity further.
So what will the new 'geo' landscape look like if the majority of geographical TLD applications are approved?
It is likely that we will see a mix of business models that allow for a combination of 'closed', 'restricted' and 'open' namespaces.
In a 'closed' namespace governments may look to maintain the utility for internal purposes, promoting individual departments and their related services whilst having complete control over a long term asset. Of course, this namespace has a number of limitations including reducing potential revenues as well as forgoing the sizable branding and marketing opportunities.
For some the decision to involve community and to develop an authoritative environment which will promote local culture, its people and support local business may involve opening up the namespace to eligible parties whilst maintaining control through strict eligibility policy. This 'restricted' namespace would be likely to increase the potential for ongoing revenue through the sale of domains to eligible parties and create more awareness for the city generally speaking.
The opportunity to auction premium generic and specific domain names such as 'holidays.sydney', 'realestate.london' or 'hotels.tokyo' is a potentially lucrative one. Whilst a 'restricted' namespace may also choose to auction its premium names an 'open' namespace may choose not to impose strict policy or eligibility requirements on who can register names therefore enticing a larger audience and ultimately growing a larger namespace.
If a country or territory required further confirmation that the investment into TLD technology is a valuable undertaking it is difficult to ignore recent statistics which estimate there are over 1.73 billion internet users in the world today a number that is ever increasing. With the introduction of new gTLDs and Internationalised Domain names (IDNs), the face of the internet is set to change and it will be the cities and regions that recognise the need for differentiation and promotion that will embrace emerging technologies and invest in the future development of its people.
It is worthy to note here that from a protection perspective, the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), a body of Government officials that assist in the ICANN decision making process, recommended that any geographical TLD applications must be supported by the relevant Government body in order to provide adequate controls against misuse. Consequently, strict restrictions on who can actually apply for a geographical TLD are now mandated by ICANN and have been introduced into the application process.
Whilst the new gTLD program timeframes are yet to be finalised by ICANN, there is increasing industry consensus that the application period is likely to be opened in mid 2010. Given the level of detail each application requires and the intricacies of managing a new public asset such as this, officials and representatives contemplating applying for a geographical TLD are strongly advised to begin their initial enquiry now. Time to get the ball rolling!
For more details on the AusRegistry International 'geoTLD' program, please click here.
To view a list of countries and cities who have already announced their intention to apply for a geographic TLD please see: www.citytld.com
Written by Maggie Whitnall, Business Development Consultant for AusRegistry International
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