At the beginning of December, a company named FairWinds released a white paper report, the results of which indicated that 74% of the Internet users they surveyed have no clue what new gTLDs (nTLDs) are, didn’t know they’ll be released in the near future, and thought the application process was incredibly confusing. The results aren’t much of a surprise to us -- we're in the business of domains, so we know while there's a lot of information to keep up with, there's not a lot of media frenzy outside of tech mags.
Mainstream media hasn’t focused a lot on ICANN’s process, many social media organizations aren’t even invested in nTLDs, and the big companies who are invested, like Amazon, Google, and Yahoo! aren’t talking publicly about why they’re interested, or what the nTLDs will mean for e-commerce, search engine results, or the way we surf the Internet. Because there's not enough mainstream exposure, most people know more about Kim Kardashian's Christmas than they do about nTLDs (unwillingly, of course).
Maybe you just found out about the nTLDs (new generic top-level domains), or you’ve never heard of them, and you’re wondering why you should care and what the change will mean to you. (If you've never heard of nTLDs, start here.) There are still a lot of quandaries we don’t know the answer to – which nTLDs will get approved, when exactly they’ll go live (they'll start in 2013, and you can view the release order on ICANN's site), how much they’ll cost, or how they’ll affect SEO. But we do know that nTLDs will change the Internet as we know it, and if you aren’t paying attention now, you will be when the first nTLDs start going releasing.
Don't wait until the releases to start learning about nTLDs. We think there are benefits to starting your education early, including:
- Being brand aware. If you own a company, then you should know if someone is trying to register a nTLD that either defines your market niche, or uses a generic term you use in your brand name. You should be aware of the Trademark Clearinghouse, and be ready to object to gTLD string that may infringe on your trademark rights. You can view all proposed nTLDs and who the applicants are on ICANN's website.
- Planning the future of your website. Maybe you’d like a chance to get into the nTLD world. If you own a brewery, for instance, you might be interested in a .BEER extension. Knowing about who will administer the nTLD, when it will be approved, and preregistering possible domain strings, either to serve as your webpage or as an extension to your web page, will prove valuable to anyone looking to get a piece of their niche nTLD.
- Got a problem with an nTLD? You can object now. Right now, if you object to a proposed nTLD, or the possible use of it, you have a chance to file a public objection with ICANN. After the objection period closes, it will be a lot harder to have any say in a gTLD that might affect you. All the information about who’s applying to administrate the gTLD, when they’ll launch, and the Early Warnings issued to applicants is available on the ICANN website until Mar. 13. You can add to any current objections, or rest assured that the nTLD you’ve got your eye on is going through the application process smoothly.
- Start thinking about SEO. There’s nothing concrete yet about how new nTLDs will affect SEO, so you can’t start planning, but you can start researching. Adding a “gTLD” feed to your Google News feed, or taking time every couple of weeks to search “SEO and new gTLDs," can help you stay abreast of the changes. nTLDs are already used in SEO, so knowing whether or not an extension with a market keyword may help traffic or will be virtually useless can help you plan for the future and decide whether you can afford to watch the market, or you need to get into the landrush (a bit more about that, here).
Whether you’re invested now in keeping an eye on the nTLD application process may mean the difference between confusion or comfort when nTLDs hit the mainstream media and start going active. There’s no question that nTLDs are coming, or that they’ll be big news, so knowing the terminology, the gTLDs you might be interested in, how to protect your brand, and basic information about how the process works can save you feeling lost or uninformed next year, when the first new nTLDs release.
For more information, check out our nTLD news and information, here on our blog. You can click on “nTLDs” section, in the blog site map in the right hand margin for nTLD specific news. We also have an nTLD watchlist you can subscribe to, which will tell you up-to-date information about the specific gTLDs you’re interested in.