9 New TLD Scenarios to Consider and Possible Actions

Overview

There are situations that warrant applying for your brand name in a new TLD. There are situations that may not warrant an application. There are also scenarios where you may want to apply in cooperation with others in your trade, creating an industry effort. No one really knows how new TLDs will play out but I hope this article will help you in your decision.

One thing for sure, decisions must be made now because whether you like the idea or not and whether the ANA succeeds in stopping or delaying new TLDs or not, there is significant momentum towards implementing them next year. If, for some reason, TLDs are delayed now, they are still likely to occur down the road. So the body of knowledge gained during this process will be valuable to your business and to your brand regardless.

Scenarios should be cross-referenced. Cost may be a factor with smaller brands. If you have your brand name registered under dot.com or if you have a category defining dot.com domain registered, that should factor into your decision process.

I only discuss dot.com domain names in this article because they are exponentially more valuable than other TLD endings and they are exponentially more important. Dot.Com domain names get more global direct navigation traffic than any other TLD ending and will likely continue to do so for an unforeseen amount of time.

TLD ScenariosThere aren’t many detailed breakdowns of the scenarios below to help you in your decision process.Let’s cross reference some scenarios with other factors and then discuss the pros and cons of each. You can decide on your own which scenarios justify your decision(s).

Examples I use in this article are purely that; for example. Examples indicate nothing about the subject’s interest or non-interest in a new TLD or my knowledge thereof.

Possible Scenarios

1. You Are A Conglomerate And Have Many Famous Brands (P&G).
2. You Have A Famous Brand That Will Qualify As A New TLD (IBM).
3. You Have A Famous Brand That Doesn’t Qualify As A New TLD Because In Its Best Known Form, It Only Has Two Characters (GM)
4. You Have A Famous Brand That Doesn’t Qualify As A New TLD Because In Its Best Known Form, It Is Already Taken By An Existing ccTLD Or gTLD (CA)
5. You Have A Famous Brand That Doesn’t Qualify As A New TLD Because In Its Best Known Form, It Contains An Unqualified TLD Character (3M, AT&T, Or P&G)
6. You Have A Famous Brand That In Its Best Known Form Would Be Difficult To Shorten For Use As A TLD (Mutual Of Omaha). A Shorter URL Is A Distinct Advantage.
7. You Have A Famous Brand And Have Already Registered It In .Com
8. You Have Registered One or More High Level Business Category .Com Domain Names in Your Industry.
9. You Are Looking For A New Business Or Revenue Opportunity.

Possible Actions

1. Brainstorm A Name Suitable To Promote As A New TLD Or Hire An Expert In Corporate Or Strategic Naming. Develop An Acceptable New Brand / Identity That Can Qualify.
2. Apply For A New TLD For Your Brand.
3. Apply For A New Category-Defining TLD On Your Own.
4. Apply For A New Category-Defining TLD In Cooperation With Your Industry.
5. Don’t Apply For A New TLD. Continue to Promote Your .Com Domain Name.

Possible Scenarios – Details and Suggested Actions

1. You Are a Conglomerate And Have Many Famous Brands (P&G).

There are a few things to consider. One thing is the idea of using one unifying TLD for the entire brand. For example, Unilever could apply for dot.unilever or P&G could apply for dot.pandg. The idea here is that the conglomerate could use their new TLD for all their brands. They would no longer advertise dot.com domain names and spend their money only advertising brands under their new TLD.

Another angle is to give the responsibility to each division or brand. Some brands are well known only in certain circles or vertical markets and may not justify the spend for a new TLD.

The application process requires one application for each string of letters so this may be best decided on a per brand basis. It may be best to consider each brand under the scenarios to be discussed next.

2. You Have a Famous Brand That Will Qualify As a New TLD (IBM).

Many brands look to have an easy qualification process. They are famous, have the money to preside in an auction, and are the most obvious brands for specific new TLDs. If the new TLD paradigm takes hold with companies and consumers, it may become the norm for large brands to have their own TLDs and may become prudent for large brands to do so. This will differentiate them in consumer’s minds and could end up being expected.

Since a barrier to entry is desirable in competitive environments and new TLDs are naturally rare, it is quite possible that a TLD for famous brands will become the norm and that NOT having a specialized TLD will be seen by consumers as less professional.

3. You Have a Famous Brand That Doesn’t Qualify As a New TLD Because In Its Best Known Form, It Only Has Two Characters (GM)

ICANN is not allowing 2-letter domains to be used in new TLDs. If your brand is commonly known by two letters and you don’t own the dot.com version of your brand and you want to play in the new TLD space, you may want to consult an expert in corporate naming or come up with a new TLD that will tie in with your brand.

If you own the dot.com or most strategic ccTLD for your brand, then you may want to just stay with that and stay away from new TLDs.

4. You Have A Famous Brand That Doesn’t Qualify As A New TLD Because In Its Best Known Form, It Is Already Taken By An Existing ccTLD Or gTLD (CA)

There are a few strategies to consider. I put forward the idea in an earlier article that a company like GM might consider approaching Gambia (.gm) to see if they can strike a deal. It wouldn’t be the first time that a country farmed out their TLD for extra revenue and it could actually be a win/win program.

If your brand doesn’t qualify as a new TLD and you don’t own the dot.com version of your brand and you want to play in the new TLD space, you may want to consult an expert in corporate naming or come up with a new TLD that will tie in with your brand.

If you own the dot.com or most strategic ccTLD for your brand, then you may want to just stay with that and stay away from new TLDs.

5. You Have a Famous Brand That Doesn’t Qualify As a New TLD Because In Its Best Known Form, It Contains An Unqualified TLD Character (3M, AT&T, Or Yahoo!)

ICANN is not allowing numbers to be used in this round of TLDs so one consideration (not really desirable but possible) is to spell out your name. 3M could be dot.threeM. I don’t like it but that is a consideration.

The other scenario is where your brand name contains a symbol, ampersand, or other punctuation such as Yahoo!. You could drop it. I think AT&T is famous enough to get by and be easily recognized without the ampersand, but this may not always work.

Consider consulting an expert in corporate naming or come up with a new TLD that will tie in with your brand.

If you own the dot.com or most strategic ccTLD for your brand, then you may want to just stay with that and stay away from new TLDs.

6. You Have a Famous Brand That In Its Best Known Form Would Be Difficult To Shorten For Use As a TLD (Mutual Of Omaha).

There is a distinct advantage to a short URL. This is evidenced by 1.) Virtue of their rarity (there are only 1352 possible combinations available and many less that are truly desirable) 2.) the fact that ICANN is not allowing two-letter TLDs to be created, and 3.) the high aftermarket values in two-letter dot.com & ccTLD domain names.

You can also consider a rebranding effort with a shorter name. Consider consulting an expert in corporate naming or come up with a new TLD that will tie in with your brand.

If you own the dot.com or most strategic ccTLD for your brand, then you may want to just stay with that and stay away from new TLDs.

7. You Have a Famous Brand and Have Already Registered it in .Com

This brings up some interesting questions. If you already have the .com version of your brand you are in a strong position online. Is it worth it to apply for the new TLD as well? If you apply for and win the new TLD, which should you promote and advertise, the dot.com version or the new TLD.

I believe that brands who own the dot.com version of their brand (most of them do) should apply for their new TLD. I think it will bring distinction and many other benefits to the brand over time that will last as long as the brand and for less than the cost of a single large television ad campaign.

There is an argument that since you own the trademark and the dot.com version of the brand, that you can object if someone else tries to apply for it and likely preside, saving your company the expense of running a new TLD. That’s a legitimate argument if you don’t buy into the value of new TLDs or if you want to gamble waiting for a second round.

8. You Have Registered One or More High Level Business Category .Com Domain Names in Your Industry.

Registering a business-category domain name under .com has proven to be a significantly positive strategy. Many successful brands are built on this concept. They have either been started from scratch or bought the business-category domain to build their brand upon. Examples include hotels.com or 1800Contacts.com.

So if you are one of these companies, the main consideration now is, “Do I want a new competitor in my space?” I have special experience in this realm since I work for a company that owns several successful business category dotcoms. Our company owns US.COM and since 1999, we have sold the sub-domains all around the world. When the .us domain name was re-delegated and made freely available in 2005 we saw a surge in traffic to us.com. I believe that this was due to the fact that many people around the world are used to typing in .com at the end of domain names. So it is likely that if you allow someone else to apply for your dot.com domain in a new TLD, it will have a positive effect on your traffic.

The problem is that things will be different in a new TLD world. If consumers and end users become accustomed to the new paradigm offered by new TLDs, you may find yourself with a well funded competitor who has a differentiated and possibly, more trusted ending to their domain. This is a call that only you can make.

9. You Are Looking For a New Business Or Revenue Opportunity.

All business ideas contain risk. Successful businesses are often funded at amounts above three-hundred-thousand to five-hundred-thousand dollars. That is around the minimum you should budget for a new TLD. And, depending on the particular string you are considering, it could be substantially more. It’s been suggested that four or five well funded players could apply for .web including web.com that have swallowed up Register.com and Network Solutions whole in the past three years. So if you are planning to apply for a widely known and obvious string for a new TLD, you’d better be well funded.

I think that some of the best opportunities lie in lesser obvious niche TLDs where markets exist but the competition will be lower. It appears to me that there are going to be significant opportunities in this space. Although I’ve always believed that dot.com domain names offered the best starting places for vertical markets and still do to some degree, I think that certain niche TLDs will make a dent and possibly dominate their sectors. This is simply because they hold the possibility of capturing the attention and interest of those niche audiences. Niche audiences are interested in their niches. They think about them. They identify with them. They want news about them and it is likely that they will become aware of their new niche TLD. I think they will want to begin using domains that end with their niche. At the very least, they will register the names they want that are not available in .com or in their ccTLD.

Although the scope of this round of new TLDs is unprecedented, there is a body of knowledge to pull from if you are interested in knowing your chances of success.

The record shows that the success or failure of a TLD lies in the interest and enthusiasm of the manager. Some TLDs that may seem obscure have done quite well. An example is .cat which is the TLD representing the Catalonian people. This TLD has been well promoted amongst its constituency and it has been well accepted. It is a successful commercial venture. Others are .name, .mobi, .tel, and most recently, .xxx which sold over 80,000 domain names before it even went to General Availability. Of course, .xxx is an exception and should not be used as a benchmark for success in most cases, but these all show that there is still an appetite for new TLDs and that opportunity for success exists.

On the other hand, domains like .coop, .aero, and .museum have languished. Their registration numbers are very low and there seems to be no interest to expand them on the part of their sponsors or applicants. They exist but there is no excitement or promotion within their industries.

Finally, there are a few TLDs that have been mired in controversy. DotPro was originally intended for Dentists, Doctors, Engineers, and other “professionals”. The idea was that it would become the standard for professionals online. There were a lot of rules around who could register a .Pro domain name, and minimum qualifications.

The problem with overly onerous rules for registration became apparent as the operators tried to qualify each registrant. This often was a manual process and increased the cost of doing business.

Over time, it appeared that convenience and profit ruled and the sponsors began changing the rules, adding new categories and methods to register domains. Although the TLD has survived and seems to be doing well, it has had a sketchy reputation. I believe that its newest management has a good chance of correcting the problems they’ve had there.

The last example I’d like to discuss is .jobs. This is an example where the operators own interests have caused controversy and held back the registry from wide adoption. The operators of .jobs seem to have licensed a large spectrum of generic domains to an affiliated company with the idea of building a massively connected job board. I don’t know how this is ultimately going to play out but, if that turns out to be what they did then this is another example of how a registry can sabotage itself.

If you are looking for some of the best examples of successful launches, perhaps the most successfully and smartly launched TLDs in recent history include .mobi and (although not technically a new TLD) .co.

DotMobi launched in May, 2005. There was a lot of criticism at the time that the domain was not needed and that one could do everything at any other domain that was being suggested as the purpose of .mobi. At the same time, .mobi had very high levels of sponsorship and funding from the mobile carriers and phone makers. It also had the legitimately perceived business case of the growth of the mobile Internet.

But those things aren’t why it has succeeded. It was excellently executed, beginning with a proper balance of holding back premium domains but not so many that it affected their sunrise, landrush, and general sales. This meant that they were able to capitalize on their domain, publicize the sale of high quality generics, and retain a reasonable amount but not a greedy amount of control over their TLD space.

DotCo, the ccTLD for Columbia, which did a relaunch in 2009 also ran a brilliant introductory campaign. Although they had the advantage of super-funding and a globally recognized set of characters (.co for company or corporation), anyone planning a new TLD launch would benefit by a study of their ongoing campaign.

Trade Associations and Coops

To end this article, I’d like to suggest that, in most cases, the way to go, if you are considering a generic new TLD is to cooperate with your trade. The only parties to benefit by an auction will be ICANN and possibly the winner. I say “possibly” because there is no evidence that a new TLD will be worth as much as the highest bidder will pay.

In my opinion, trade associations have the most to gain by being active champions in the new TLD process. This will give them a new revenue model, will spread the risk evenly, and there is a natural separation between their largest members, who can afford their own TLDs, and their smaller members who may stand to gain by getting their chosen brands or generics within the realm of their new TLDs.

Contrary to what some trade associations are suggesting, there was a lot of thought about Intellectual Property that went into ICANN’s planning. The most active community in the process was the IP community. Although whether or not you should get a new TLD is up in the air, planning for how new TLDs affect your business and brand should be a certainty in your business planning today.

About Joe Alagna

Joe Alagna is the Vice President of Channel Development at the leading international domain name registrar, 101domain.com. Having been involved in the domain name industry and ICANN for over 15 years, he is an expert in all aspects of the domain business, including domain name investing, new gTLDs, registrars, and registries. Before the domain name business, he negotiated national accounts contracts for AT&T Wireless. Joe can be reached by phone at +1 (909) 606-9175 or via email using the contact form on this site.
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