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Aug 17 2012

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Pros and cons of adding new generic top-level domains

There are over 20 generic top-level domains (gTLDs) wwhen naming websites, but more will be added soon. What are some of the pros and cons of this move?

To varying degrees, most of us are will recognise .com, .net, .org, as top-level domains (TLDs). However, beyond those three, which tend to be the most popular generic TLDs (gTLDs), the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) has approved an additional 18, as shown in Figure 1, which are also available for use.

Figure 1: General top-level domains as approved by IANA

However, in January 2012, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) extended an open invitation for applications for new gTLDs. These gTLDs could include non-Latin characters, and could be submitted by any person or organisation willing to pay the application fee of USD 185,000. As at the June deadline date, almost 2,000 applications had been received. ICANN is currently reviewing submissions, and approved gTLDs may be announced as early as 2013.

In light of the fact that we already have over 21 gTLDs, which can also be used on conjunction country code TLDs (ccTLDs), such as .jm, .bz, .tt, and .lc, for Jamaica, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, and Saint Lucia, are we going to be paralysed by choice? This post examines some of the pros and cons of increasing the number of gTLDs.

Perceived advantages

Some of the benefits that can result from increasing the gTLDs are outlined below:

Encourages uniqueness. One of the distinct benefits of inviting applications for new gTLDs is that unique names and words could be approved for use.  For well-known companies, personalised and private gTLDs could be a new medium through which tp reinforce their branding and to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Additionally, with the inclusion of Cyrillic, Chinese and other non-Latin characters and alphabets, gTLDs will become more inclusive and representative of the diversity of languages used on the Internet.

Accommodates greater choice and new services. With a wider pool of gTLDs to choose from, we are likely to have terms more closely related to the nature or purpose of websites (e.g., .blog), rather the generic ones that currently obtain. Furthermore, these new service-specific gTLDs can drive the growth of new purpose-driven online properties, which in turn could offer a more organised approach to domain registration.

Increased lucrativeness to ccTLD owners and domain registries. Some country codes have benefitted considerably from being licensing for commercial use worldwide. One of the most recognisable is .tv, which is the ccTLD for Tuvalu, a small group of islands in the South Pacific, but its domain is widely used in the television, entertainment and multimedia industries. Table 1 highlights indicative costs for one year’s registration of some ccTLDs with a popular internet domain registrar, but pricing can vary considerable depending on the registrar.

Table 1: Indicative pricing for one year’s registration for select ccTLDs (Source: GoDaddy, Wikipedia)

A wider range of gTLDs to choose means that there will also be a greater number of options when creating domains that include a ccTLD, as many of them are preceded by a gTLD. Examples include http://www.bahamas.gov.bs/, for the Government of the Bahamas; http://www.royal.gov.uk/, for the British monarchy.

Potentially easier searches. Currently, in order to successfully use of some of the existing gTLDs certain criteria must be satisfied. For example, for:

  • .aero, the registrant must work in the aviation industry, e.g., an airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport (http://www.yyz.aero/).
  • .int, the registrant must be an international organisation established by treaty, such as the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (http://www.ectel.int/) or the International Telecommunications Union (http://www.itu.int/).

Depending on the rules that might be implemented for use of newer gTLDs, such as to group particular services or operations, Internet searches might eventually become easier and more efficient.

Anticipated disadvantages and concerns

On the other hand, some concerns  have been expressed, which include the following:

Increased cost of defensive registration. To guarantee virtually exclusive use of particulars word or terms as a domain name would require a registrant to purchase the domains of most, if not all, of the major gTLDs, in addition to the ones it actually intends to yse. With an increase in the number gTLDs, it means that the cost of this pre-emptive action could become prohibitive, especially since it not a one-off purchase, and privately owned/managed gTLDs are likely to be priced at a premium.

Potentially easier to implement restrictions. In the event that rules are implemented that require certain types of operations to use a specific gTLD, such as what has happened for .aero and .int, it becomes possible to isolate certain types of domains, and to apply some specific actions across the board, to their detriment. For example, adult entertainment providers have been concerned, and even reluctant to register their online properties under the .xxx domain, as it would be easier for governments or individuals to block/filter their content, which could affect their continued viability.

Potential increase in fraudulent or misleading sites. Finally, in light of the broad range of threats that currently exist online, there could be increased instances of phishing and use of similar-sounding domain names for fraudulent purposes. Additionally, persons could be misled to visit websites other than the ones desired, which would not only divert traffic from those websites, but also could potentially undermine wel-known brands and businesses. Hence organisations and domain name owners may have to be even more vigilant, and perhaps make greater provision to challenge questionable domain registrations, or those that might conflict, or could be confused, with their legitimate operations.

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About the author

Michele Marius

Michele Marius has a wealth of experience in the telecoms and ICT space, which has been gained in the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, and in the public and private sectors. She is the Editor and Publisher of ICT Pulse.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ict-pulse.com/2012/08/pros-cons-adding-new-generic-top-level-domains/