In 2014 the Internet is shifting due to the growth of the new Top Level Domains (TLDs). Domains such as .Photo, .Club, and .Technology have already gone live, joining .Com and .Net as legitimate places to do business. These new domains fall into several categories: business-based domains e.g. .Hotel; geographic domains like .NYC or .Berlin; and brands or company names. .Citi, .Apple, and .Hyatt.
There are many opportunities for brands to take control of their online identities. If your company didn’t get a “good” .Com name, instead settling for some dash and adjective-filled substitute (JoesPlumbing-RepairOnline.com), this is the time to seize the day and get something users can get to smoothly, like www.Joes.Plumbing.New domains are popping up each week, and they have the potential to change your ideas about branding, online security, and insurance – yes, insurance – in ways good and bad. One good part is the potential to increase security and trust. Citi is moving their entire digital footprint to .Citi, which they will control and promote as the only legitimate place in which to interact with their services online. This points to a rethinking of how consumers and businesses interact with users online.
Brands will be able to create “stickiness” and loyalty by offering customers customized email addresses such as JoeSmith [at] products [dot] apple and customized portals such as JoeSmith.Products.Apple so that Joe Smith can directly access his information rather than having to navigate to the Apple homepage to log in. Apple would then be able to send Joe Smith personalized content about new product launches and deals to both his personalized email address and custom portal. This secure and customized content can lead to increased trust and loyalty by consumers, as they will now be able to tell the difference between a scammer and legitimate site.
But there is a dark side to this shift, because new domains bring with them increased risk. New domains will confuse web users familiar with “WWW.Something.Com.” According to research from last year, 74% of internet users have no idea about this new TLD program, and more than 77% believed the programs would cause confusion. SEDO Research.
Further, hundreds of new domains will give scammers a lot of real estate to hide and put up fake sites. We saw with last month’s indictment of Chinese military hackers that getting people to click on a familiar-looking-but-fake website is an excellent way to steal information without requiring an actual “hack” through security systems. Simpler issues like cybersquatting – taking a domain and either taking adWords revenue, redirecting traffic to competitors or creating fake sites – become multiplied when there are more and more domain spaces in which to play.
Our company, DomainSkate.com, is helping businesses prevent these issues – almost like an insurance product. We’ve already seen a customer have their name taken in two domains within a week.
The new domains, even in these very early days, are getting some traction in the market. There have been over 500,000 registrations in the top 20 new domains during the past few months. Compared to .Com’s 113 Million registrations this is a very small number, but there is a greater branding opportunity with to put your vacation business into .Travel than making up a name in .Com or .Net that doesn’t fit your business well.
The new domains give companies an opportunity to enhance brand image and build new properties or custom content for users. Organizations located in specific geographies like NY, SF or LA will benefit from the promotional campaigns that these cities will do for local businesses. And we’ll likely see innovation in the internet naming space as well.
This is an unprecedented shift in the way we find online properties has both opportunities and potential downsides. Bet on the upside by registering names with potential value. Cover yourself with domain protection and be alert for people using your brand name to confuse customers. It is a big, bad .World out there.
By: Howard Greenstein, COO, DomainSkate
Howard Greenstein is COO of DomainSkate, which helps SMBs and Law Firms protect their brands online with a patent-pending alert system.