A restructuring of the Internet is about to change the way you represent your company digitally.
Did you have a difficult time choosing your company's name because all of the best domain names are taken? Come February 4, all that's about to change.
About 1,000 new generic top-level domain names, or gTLDs, will be up for grabs beginning early next month. You know gTLDs as final section of a Web address--for instance, .com, .net and .edu. The additional titles will come available, in part, as different languages become acceptable for use in addresses. Instead of using only one language--Latin--companies can start using more than ten including Chinese, Yiddish and Arabic. Additionally giant companies the likes of Google and Amazon have applied for their own customized gTLDs.
Critics argue that the added gTLDs could spur mass confusion, while supporters suggest it could help small businesses stand out without having to wield inanely long Web addresses or gobeldygook names. Just think of the potential for startups, alone.
If you wanted to launch a site called NYCBrickOvenPizza.pizza or JerseyShoreBeachRental.beach you can.
Domain names, officially called Uniform Resource Locators, or URLs, are overseen by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and until 2013, there were only 22 functioning gTLDs. The most common consisted of .com, .net, .org, .gov and .edu.
There were attempts to widen the landscape in the past, but for the most part they didn't stick. Domain names like .biz, and .mobi, for instance, barely took off--usually because marketers weren't interested. But the need and argument to create more gTLDs gained steam in recent years, as the push to launch added sites has intensified.
"We’ve gone from an average of four or five letters in a second-level domain to something in excess of 14 to find what you’re looking for," ICANN’s Cyrus Namazi told Quartz.
But will the ability to create domain names from such a wide variety of combinations complicate the landscape of the web to an unmanageable state? It's hard to tell until after February 4. But the uptake should be tempered.
While anyone can apply to run a new domain--and surely many companies already have--interested parties must meet certain requirements and fork over the $185,000 application fee to ICANN.
If however you're unwilling to pay the piper for customization, you will be able to purchase second-level domains, at a price of less than $10 each.
Wether you should go this route--if you're starting your site or thinking of shifting to a new gTLD--might just come down to a few tried and true busienss principles. Just as with any big decision, consider traction, marketing opportunities, cost, and ultimately how you want to be represented to the digital world.