Call to Action: Prepare for New gTLDs

You know how your mother doesn’t understand this business about new top-level domains? Now is the time to explain it to her carefully because the web is about to get a major upgrade.

After months of delay, applicants for new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) – the text to the right of the dot in a web address – are now signing contracts in rapid succession. To date, applicants have signed registry agreements for 45 gTLDs with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is overseeing this unprecedented expansion of Internet space.

All gTLDs with signed contracts are generically termed – such as .SEXY, .BIKE, .TODAY, .VENTURES. Of the 45, 10 are International Domain Names (IDNs), written in Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and other non-Roman scripts. Legal hurdles have so far prevented most brand-named companies from signing contracts, although Google became the exception last week when it signed a contract for .EVERYONE in Japanese.

Word is out.

News stories are cropping up regularly in the traditional press. Advertisements are appearing, too, with increasing frequency. The firm 1&1, which sells domain names, recently broadcast a commercial about “pre-registering” second-level domains – the text to the left of the dot in a web address – in the new extensions. The ad ran during Sunday and Monday night football games, and internationally – giving it a wide viewership and causing tongues to wag. (Of course, there is no guarantee pre-registrants will get the domain name they want in a new gTLD because no new gTLD has yet gone live. And when gTLDs do go live, second-level domains will be sold on a first come, first served basis.)

Thanks to the spread of the news into the mainstream, soon, a critical mass will realize the vast potential of these new extensions. Internet users will create new communities surrounding shared interests. The applicant for .TATTOO, for example, has signed its registry agreement and is moving toward launch. Lovers of body ink around the world no doubt will flock to this new gTLD to debate pressing issues such as disposable needles or reusable? Can a tattoo design be copyrighted? Or even, what’s the best way to remove a tattoo?

What about if you are a CEO? .CEO just announced its plans to create a CEO only social network. Lots of new examples like this on the horizon. New opportunities and old risks.

Business owners have serious matters to think about. New gTLDs will open the door for new ways to brand and market goods and services. Any company with a trademark to protect needs to develop a forward-looking strategy to take advantage of new extensions BEFORE they launch to avoid the inevitable mad dash to stake a claim later.

The early birds, of course, will buy up the best, most intuitive second-level domain names – perhaps even names that match an existing trademark, which means starting to plan now is critical.

Savvy business owners are already preparing for this once-in-a-generation domain name explosion. Late comers will be shut out and forced to play catch-up.

Better to be a trailblazer than the clean up crew.

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