Download a PDF of this report here
A new wave of domains is coming. It could change the way people engage with the internet and technology but it’s all speculation for now. Due to costs, rules, the technical skills required and the lack of clear benefits, most brands in Australia should hesitate before getting involved in this round of generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs).
For government, regions, technology, domain registrars and hosting companies it is worth considering.
However, every business and category is different so you should definitely think about it.
This round of applications runs from 12 January to 12 April and it takes about nine months before successful applicants are issued their domains. And there will be more rounds of applications. For full details visit ICANN’s website http://newgtlds.icann.org/en
Not owning a Top Level Domain isn’t the end of the opportunity. There will be a whole new type of domain that brands can purchase and use. For example, Qantas could potentially buy www.qantas.fly from whomever sets up the .fly domain. (.travel was registered in the last round of applications)
And the big caveat – computers, browsers, mobiles and social media are becoming increasingly intuitive to the point where one day domain names might become redundant… It’s a big call but worth considering if you’re making a long term play like this.
gTLDs are a high risk investment relevant for brands with a 5-20 year vision and the ability to wait for the potential return on their investment.
MelbourneIT have put together this helpful guide to evaluate if gTLDs are something you should consider.
As an absolute minimum all brands should review gTLD applications (which are made public) and contest any that they feel breach trademarks.
If you’re not sure if it applies to your brand, Visual Jazz can provide a comprehensive analysis for your consideration.
Download a PDF of this report here
There’s a new wave of domains coming. Domain’s that let organisations kick the .com to the curb and have a .anything they like – www.google.com could become www.google or w.google or go.google
Think local - .melbourne .sydney .fitzroy .australia .outback .barrierreef .moon .earth .milkyway
Think brand - .mcdonalds .dell .theage .sony .disney .asx .amazon .google
Think big - .food .time .now .secure .2050 .event .movie .comedy .fashion .car .pluto
No matter what you’re thinking you’ll need to meet a range of criteria to be able to apply, along with a fee of $185,000 (plus hosting costs.) And your application is not guaranteed (you’ll get a partial refund in that case) – in fact anyone can dispute your application based on four criteria, most notably ‘legal rights’ like trademarks. If successful there are ongoing hosting and registration fees to maintain the integrity and security of the domain also need to be factored in (MelbourneIT & AusRegistry can help with this).
The main criteria (which prevent most brands) are:
- Sophisticated domain management IT infrastructure (most will outsource this to someone like MelbourneIT or AusRegistry. Costs range depending on a number of factors, including if you intend to sell domains or not)
- To be a fully formed and operational entity before applying
- Have a clear business case and plan for how you’ll use the domain
- Not competing with government, community or geographic applications (they all beat brands)
Many industry bodies are proclaiming this is a money grab by ICANN (the company that gets the $185k) and that it will ruin the internet (for a number of complex reasons). However, the intention is right. We’re running out of xyzcompany.coms (there are 90 million already registered) and something needs to give. But this solution might do more harm than good.
But let’s look at the potential upsides from the investment
Opportunity to generate revenue by selling domains
For example, the owner of .food could sell woolworths.food to Woolworths, coles.food to Coles, etc for whatever fee they negotiate. The risk here is that with such a dramatic increase in the number of top level domains, Woolworths could possibly buy woolworths.shop, woolworths.food or woolworths.fresh and etc, resulting in an oversupply of options for brands and therefore the value of each individual .food .fresh .shop could be dramatically reduced.
And in reality this approach is nothing new – Flight Centre could sell Qantas.flightcentre.com.au to Qantas right now.
Potential to have a shorter domain name
The most obvious benefit is being able to have a shorter domain name like www.google which might increase visits to a given site as it’s easier to remember and type. However, the reality is that Google is the number one source of traffic to most sites in Australia, and if people can’t remember your campaign or website because of .com on the end maybe you need to create a campaign that’s more memorable.
The question here is what’s the real benefit in having a shorter domain name?
Search engine optimisation
Domain names are really important when it comes to ranking a site in Google for a given keyword, so potentially having more control over your domain name will improve your rankings. For example, if Bunnings had .hardware they could create bunnings.hardware or even paint.hardware, improving their rankings for the term ‘hardware’. Alternatively, if Bunnings owned .bunnings that would improve their brand keyword ranking, but they would already be number one for the term Bunnings.
The big caveat with SEO is that Google haven’t revealed how they’ll respond to these new domains, but history tells us that Google doesn’t reward tricks, quick wins and miracle cure similar to the above.
If you’re struggling with SEO this (most likely) won’t be the miracle cure to fix it – you’re going to have to put in the hard yards like you always have. (Plus, buying .hardware would be highly competitive and probably very expensive, and it’s unlikely Bunnings would win against big multi-nationals.)
Being seen as progressive
Having a .brand or .category would take time to get picked up by consumers who would need constant education, but potentially the outcome would be being seen as a progressive company.
But if a progressive domain name is your advantage over competitors then you’re clutching at straws. Genuinely innovate your service, products and brand and that will probably work harder for you than any domain.
Multi-brand multi-regional organisations
For multinationals or houses of brands this makes some sense .disney would work for mickeymouse.disney for example, or .kraft could work for Australia.kraft or uk.kraft.
But how much better is this than mickeymouse.disney.com or kraft.com.au or kraft.co.uk?
So if not brands, who could this work for?
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but gives you an idea of the potential.
- Geographic regions - Tourism bodies or governments could sell off domains under these to create more localised URLs for example bensfishing.nt or crown.melbourne. However, for this to be successful a well-defined communications strategy is needed to educate the relevant audience that the gTLD exists, and all owners of domains within a gTLD need to promote them consistently.
- Tech companies - Potentially having a domain name such as .wifi or .samsung could work well for physical devices.
- Media/publishers - For example, .food for recipe publishers, tennis.sport for Channel Ten, richmond.afl for the AFL. This makes sense as it relies on consumers understanding and remembering to use them (.sport for example) which publishers can achieve easily.
You shouldn’t do it if…
- Search engine optimisation is your objective. There’s no guarantee and Google tends to ignore quick tactics like this, and you’d need to secure a category like .cars, which will be highly contested.
- You are looking to differentiate your brand. If you’re relying on a slightly shorter domain to differentiate from competitors you’ve got bigger problems, and we don’t even know if consumers will be more likely to visit your site (in droves) if it’s a bit shorter. You could even argue it could be counterproductive.
- You are trying to be ‘progressive’ – Be progressive by innovating your product and service.
- You’ve got a hunch. It’s a lot of money to apply and it’s not guaranteed you’ll get it, and it will take quite a bit of resource to manage administratively and technically.
When should a brand consider registering a gTLD?
Well, if you’re a long term future-focused company, have the capacity to sit on the investment for a few years while consumers learn what this all means, have a large portfolio of products, brands, content or are across multiple markets, or if you think you can sell lots of domains underneath your targeted domain, you might want to have a think about it.
Either way, it’s high risk and you’re betting on a lot of unknowns with a fair amount of cash.
“Ok we’re in, what next?”
The application process involves quite a bit of heavy lifting – lots of documentation, and you’ll need a technical partner to be part of your application (i.e. MelbourneIT or AusRegistry).
The current round of applications closes on the 29th of March so you’ll need to get ready quickly or wait until they open the next round of applications.
Every brand MUST do the following:
All applications are made public, and legal teams should monitor these to file objections against any applications you feel breach your legal rights like trademarks (From the 1st of May until end November). You should put together an ‘objection strategy’ to ensure you monitor the correct phrases and terms.
Organisations are able to formally object to the creation of domains if they infringe on:
- String Confusion – the url string causes confusion
- Legal Rights – infringement of objector’s rights
- Limited Public Interest – violates principals of international law
- Community – misappropriation of a community label
All new gTLD’s will be publically posted on May 1. You will have 7 months to file an objection based on the above inflictions.
View the objection procedure here
Unfortunately, there is no automated notification process that will outline a potential trademark breach. The responsibility will rest with brands to highlight what strings will breach trademark and manually review the submitted applications within the defined timeframe.
If you identify a breach of trademark and wish to make an appeal you can do so through the ICANN website. There is a $2,750, non-refundable fee involved in filing an objection and an extra $1,250 if your appeal goes to hearing.