Starting in 2012 and early 2013, companies were allowed to apply for new top-level domains (TLDs) for the first time. In other words, the Internet would no longer be limited to basic domains like .com, .biz, .net, or .org. And, while major corporations and groups bought the rights to these extensions during phase one, phase two of the launch allows anyone in the general public to purchase these TLDs for private or public use.

Though there are currently only 20 or 30 TLDs, there will soon be hundreds. The choice to release these new TLDs was the decision of ICANN, the non-profit organization responsible for maintaining naming rights on the Internet. As a business owner or marketing professional, the future impact of this decision is hard to predict. Will it be good, bad, or merely confusing? These questions are stamped with a big, fat "to-be-determined" label.

The Big Picture

From ICANN's perspective, the goal is simple: scale TLD capacity to meet the growing nature of the Internet. The idea is that a finite number of .com, .net, and other basic TLDs exists, while the number of domains being registered is increasing exponentially. Hundreds of thousands of new domains are registered each week, while only a fraction are deleted or discontinued.

If the Internet were restricted to a mere 20 or 30 extensions, would it eventually reach capacity? We'll never know, as ICANN seems to think that now's the time to expand. And, while ICANN is a non-profit, you can't help but look at this from a financial perspective. For every additional TLD that's released, money is changing hands on multiple levels. Huge organizations buy the rights to TLDs, squatters buy up certain ones and mark up the resale price, celebrities are being forced to buy .porn names to protect their privacy, and on and on. The decision to release hundreds of new TLDs has, and will continue, to send financial shockwaves through the Internet.

Five Things Businesses Need to Know About New TLDs

You could spend hours speculating the motivation behind these new TLDs and how they'll affect the Internet, but what you really need to consider is what you're going to do on a personal level. How will your business respond? Here are some things to think about:

Minimal SEO impact. Despite what you may think, read, or hear, it doesn't appear that new TLDs will have a significant impact on SEO and search rankings. "Google will attempt to rank new TLDs appropriately, but I don't expect a new TLD to get any kind of initial preference over .com, and I wouldn't bet on that happening in the long-term either," writes Google's Matt Cutts. "If you want to register an entirely new TLD for other reasons, that's your choice, but you shouldn't register a TLD in the mistaken belief that you'll get some sort of boost in the search engine rankings." This topic could be discussed further, but what more do you really need to know? Cutts is probably the most informed SEO figure in the industry, so his opinion will do.Whack-a-mole. If your goal is to scoop up dozens of different extensions so your competitors (or domain brokers) don't get ahold of them first, you're going to be busy--not to mention that it's going to cost you a pretty penny. Trying to buy every TLD you can is like playing whack-a-mole. Every time you think you're finished, another TLD pops up. You're better off focusing on enhancing your own sites.Consider creativity. It would be unwise to completely write off these new TLDs, however. The key is to hone in on ones that would actually work for your company. Are there opportunities to get creative? Could you launch a promotion? For example, there is a .blackfriday TLD. You could use this as a mini-site for deals and promotions this November. Possible creative examples for major companies include Hilton.hotel, Ford.cars, BlueMoon.beer, or Chipotle.menu.End of 2015. "A better indicator will come at the end of 2015 when we see how many people who squatted or received their new TLD domain for free decide its worth it to continue paying for it," writes Peter Roesler, President of Web Marketing Pros. In other words, will people realize that they bought these TLDs prematurely, or will value increase in the resale market?.com equity. At the end of the day, the reality is that .com will always hold the most TLD equity. It's what people are familiar with, and it's going to take a long time for another extension to come in and change that. We'll likely see other TLDs rise to prominence, but they'll be hard-pressed to take power away from traditional .com domains.

Create a Game Plan

As you can see, there's no clear answer regarding how best to approach the issue. It ultimately comes down to an individual, business-level decision. Access to new TLDs will hurt some businesses, harm others, and leave countless more in a purgatorial stage. The smartest thing you--as a business owner or marketer--can do is to prepare.

Meet with your company's key decision-makers, and craft a game plan. Should you buy up all of these extensions, and park them? Does it make sense to migrate your current site to a new TLD? Should you launch new sites? Deal with each of these decisions cautiously, and you'll be better prepared than most.