The look of the Internet is about to go through a major transformation now that ICANN, the organization that oversees the web name space, has approved the plan to introduce new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). Instead of being limited to domain names that end in the familiar dot-com, dot-net, and others, companies will be able to put their brand name or category to the right of the dot. So Marriott Hotels could apply for .marriott or even .hotel. The city of London plans to operate .london.
There's been a lot of debate about whether there's a need for TLDs, with many marketers arguing that there's nothing you can do with a dot-brand that you can't do with a brand dot-com. What these people are missing is that you are not just applying for another web address; you are applying for the right to operate a domain registry at the root of the Internet, which opens up all kinds of new business opportunities.
A fundamental transformation of the way brands and consumers connect on the Internet is amid us. Icann, the authority responsible for Internet domains, has approved a plan to expand the 22 currently available domains (.com, .net, etc.) to allow trusted brands and organizations to apply to own and operate their own gTLDs (generic top-level domains). In just a few years, new brand gTLDs will impact the way consumers search for and find products online as recognized brands switch away from .com to their own .brand top-level domains. URL paths used today for categories, products, and marketing campaign landing pages (e.g., www.apple.com/iphone) will be replaced by new shorter, catchier URLs (e.g., iphone.apple).
eBusiness professionals must carefully evaluate this change and start the process of mapping out how owning their .brand domain will impact their eCommerce sites. I recommend that Forrester clients read our latest research report written by my colleague Jeff Ernst and myself, .Brand And The Impact For eBusiness, which outlines the reasons why eBusiness leaders and their marketing counterparts must carefully evaluate the significant opportunity that owning gTLDs for the their brand or brands presents.
ICANN will soon allow companies to apply for and operate domain registries for generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) that represent their brand or keywords. For example, Aetna can apply for .aetna or .insurance. Many of the biggest brands are planning to apply for their .brand TLD, but many marketing leaders I've talked with look at this as a nuisance and are skeptical about whether Internet users will embrace them.
What do you think? Do you believe that the new .brand domains will catch on with users, or are they so used to .com that they won't change their behaviors? Take the poll over on the right pane of my blog.