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Google Enters Domain Market

Domains are being reborn into a marketer's dream come true. Having exhausted many of the best ones that end in .com, companies will now be able to explore new top level domains such as .guru, .wiki or .apple. And this market now has a new entrant — the 800-million pound gorilla known as Google.

Before looking at the impact Google might have on this new domain market, let's review the new landscape of Generic Top Level Domains, or gTLDs.

Dramatic Expansion

Up to 1400 new gTLDs will be available, including brand-based ones like .volkswagen. The "most highly contested TLDs," according to domain governing organization ICANN, are .app, .inc, .home, .art, .blog, .llc, .shop, .book, .design, .music, .movie, .web, .store, .hotel, .love, .ltd, .cloud, .mail, and .news. This dramatically expands the TLD universe from the 22 previously available, like .com, .net., and .org.

"Before this year," Top Level Design's Ray King told CMSWire, "if you wanted a memorable name then you needed to be ready to break out your checkbook because those .coms certainly do not come cheap." The Portland, Ore.-based Top Level Design was the only applicant for the domains .wiki and .ink.

"You can generalize that neither [.wiki or .ink] will be one of the biggest TLDs because strings like .art, .music and .blog all received multiple applications," he said. But, King added, many people "from within our industry tell me that .wiki is their dark horse for a successful TLD," in large part because .wiki describes the site format.

"So, when I go to craftbeer.wiki, I can expect a vibrant site with passionate folks discussing all things relevant to brewing beer. This is not the case with craftbeer.com or craftbeer.guru, where you could be accessing a storefront, a blog, a brewery tourguide or any number of things."

Semantic Meaning

King pointed out that some of the new TLDs are available in non-Latin characters, which is having an "incredible" adoption rate in China, India, Japan, the Middle East and elsewhere.

A potentially large marketing impact is that many of the new TLDs have an actual meaning, such as .book instead of .com for a bookseller's site.

"It is my strong belief that by adding semantic meaning to a domain name you are creating a stronger connection," King told us. The .com suffix, he said, means "Internet," while previous non-.com's like .net, .biz or .co appeared to be "holding places for sites that didn't want to pay a domainer a hefty price for the .com."

But now "pizza shops can get .pizza, companies can launch seasonal sites on .christmas, and you can craft marketing campaigns around a memorable domain name that didn't cost tens of thousands of dollars."

'How It Sounds'

With so many new choices, how do they stack up in terms of relative value for prestige, memorability, or other factors? In other words, how does one choose?

"If a name is clearly applicable and dead-on, like .dentist for a dentist," King said, "then it's a great match." In some cases, several domains might be appropriate, such as .law, .lawyer or .legal or, for another profession, .ink or .tattoo.

"In these cases [of many possible matches]," he told us, "cache and just 'how it sounds' win the day." But King acknowledged that new domains are "still a novel concept," so a brand may need to factor in some effort at education and publicity for a site ending in, say, .photos or .camera.

Now About  Google

The tech giant is offering an invite-only beta of its new domain name registration service, having been one of most active applicants for new gTLDS, with 101 applications. This is Google's first foray into domain registration, and the company is adding such sweeteners as picking up the added cost for private registration so a domain owner's name and address is not made public.

King said Google's targeted TLDs show "they are going after popular Internet activities, TLDs that they can tie to their products and also names that will empower small businesses and individuals, such as .cpa and .dds."

Beyond just the breadth of the domains it will handle, King pointed out, the tech giant is also separately becoming a registrar, which is the consumer-facing storefront for domains.

"Many have been talking about how Google is making a move to become the market leader and take over GoDaddy’s market share by entering the market as a registrar," King told us. (GoDaddy is also set for a $100 million IPO.)

"There may be some truth to this, but I think if you look at the TLDs that Google has applied for and the products it currently serves, it appears Google is looking to provide complete online solutions, from domain name to email to advertising and search."

 
 
 
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