becomes website.yourbrand

You may have heard the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently loosened their restrictions for top-level domain names.

Currently, the only top-level domains (TLDs) which are permitted include the familiar .com, .net, and .org, among others. Companies will now be able to apply for custom domain names that better reflect their brand. Pepsi.cola,, chat.facebook…. they could all become possible by next year.

It sounds like another gold-rush for businesses and cyber-squatters alike, with two key differences:

1)      What’s up for grabs is not just a domain name like “name.mybrand”. It’s the ability to create and manage the future registrations of any domain name using the TLD you’ve purchased. That means big opportunities for whoever owns lucrative terms, such as “.movie”, “.apple”, or others.

2)      The cost of entry is high. While a domain name these days may only cost $20 to register, the rights to an entire custom TLD starts at $185,000, not including annual fees.

What can we expect once registrations open in 2012?

Large corporations such as Microsoft will be among the primary owners of the new, custom TLDs.  Expect to see .google and .facebook quickly registered. Eventually, we may see city-specific domains such as .orlando and .newyork. And, of course, let’s not forget the lucrative .sex to be the subject of a virtual turf-war.

How quickly consumers grasp the new domains is another matter. Without the familiar “.com” TLD to lean on to, consumers will need to rely even more on search engines and offline marketing to learn where to find sites of interest. Organic SEO will be an especially crucial part of a company’s online marketing plan. And offline marketing methods such as QR codes could gain wider acceptance as brands struggle to funnel customers to the correct websites.

So, mark your calendars for 2012 – this is one of the largest changes to hit the internet since its inception. And even if you don’t plan to purchase a custom TLD, you should still be reviewing next year’s online marketing strategy for your business and how you plan to continue to be found in an expanding sea of domain names.

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