If you’ve not heard, ICANN is opening up top level domains (.COM, .ORG, etc.) to just about anything and it’s starting to generate some discussion as we attempt to sort out the implications. This is, ostensibly, in response to an impending shortage of available domain real estate. Apparently, the number of .COM domains is running low. Let’s gaze into the crystal CRT and make a few predictions:
- In the short run, little will change. Many of the newer TLDs (Top Level Domains) such as .MOBI have failed to gain any real traction, and it’s unclear if this new proposal will open that up until the current popular TLD’s get completely saturated.
- These things are going to be expensive and a little complex to get your hands on. Most references that I’ve seen list $50,000-100,000 per TLD, but those numbers are preliminary. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an auction system. In addition, you need to be capable of running the domain, i.e. you’re a registrar (or more likely you’re working with a registrar to divvy up addresses). This should limit cybersquatting at the TLD level to some degree.
- Your .COM or .ORG address will become more and more valuable over time BUT
- …You will need to buy more and more aliases to protect your brand. Analyses over the years of niche domain such as the .BIZ domain and the .EU domain showed that nearly all of these domains overlap domains with the same name with a more established .COM, .ORG or .NET extension.
- In order for this new system to really take off, ICANN will need a better system for vetting applications and preventing deceptive use of these new domain spaces. This is no trivial task! Determining who owns a trademark, preventing visually similar domains (.C0M with a zero rather than .COM, for example), and otherwise preventing all sorts of nefarious abuses of the system is a real challenge, and ICANN has largely avoided any steps to intervene in the past. Let’s take a respectable example – one recent commentary on the ICANN issue comes from Neal Lincoln (formerly or Aurora Healthcare, now with Greystone) in which he uses the example of a .MAYO TLD for the Mayo Clinic. Within healthcare, that makes some sense, but I doubt very much that Mayo Clinic would be able to grab that domain. I see Hellmann’s (current owners of Mayo.com) or Kraft as more likely candidates. The question is – who decides? The current land grab approach could get very messy.
With all of that said, the place where I hope we see action is through associations and other professional groups creating and arbitrating new TLDs. There have already been indications that groups are forming to perform this role in major cities (.LONDON). Perhaps some group of healthcare associations such as the AMA, AHA, HIMSS or Joint Commission will pull together and grab TLDs such as .MD, .HOSPITAL, HEALTHSYSTEM or .CLINIC. Such groups are also equipped to be sure that .MD domains can’t be registered by just anyone. Then, suddenly, these domains could begin to add value rather than merely confusion.