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Will Custom Internet Domain Suffixes Be a Positive or Negative for Businesses?

With hundreds of thousands of companies in the online marketplace, creative domain names are desperately needed in order to stand out. Larger, more established companies typically register their domain name as “.com” to guarantee that no other company with the same name could have that suffix. This is frustrating for smaller, newer companies since the deck is stacked against them in getting their name out to customers.

Well, big news for those smaller companies may be coming down from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, cleverly shortened to ICANN, in the upcoming months. This nonprofit group controls the Internet’s domain name system and they met in Singapore in late June to decide if companies and other organizations could create unique domain suffixes. As you know, the most popular suffixes are “.com” and “.net,” but ICANN is bringing new domain suffixes into play. The proposed decision suggests that companies and organizations could start to use “.anything” domain names to better market themselves against their competitors.

According to Michele Jourdan, a communications manager for ICANN’s new domain program, it would cost a company approximately $185,000 to own a custom domain (such as “.pepsi”). That’s a substantial amount of money for small companies, but when you weigh the benefits with an increase of sales, it’s an investment that many companies will seriously consider.

Why this matters:

Businesses could register a domain name under a specific city to better position themselves with customers nationwide. You could perhaps see “Target.chi” for Target stores in Chicago or “Target.nyc” for Target stores in New York City. This would certainly make posting coupons and other location-sensitive information easier to share. Also, restaurants could post menus based on their different locations and cities instead of posting one menu nationwide.

Businesses could also register a domain name under their specific industry. So, instead of going to “CapitolRecords.com,” you could check out “CaptiolRecords.music” for information about your favorite band or musician. Or instead of checking out “Honda.com,” you could research your next car on “Honda.cars.” Ideally, this would make it easier for the company to better position themselves in consumers’ minds.

What this means for businesses:

Overall, some believe this move could help all sizes of companies. Larger companies could better brand their online presence and smaller businesses could tailor their marketing efforts to local customers in a specific area to attract a larger customer base.

It’s possible that a unique domain name will give small businesses a boost with customers, but not everyone is on board with ICANN’s proposal. There are doubts that a new URL will be a magical fix for increased sales. In a recent Montreal Gazette article, Chris Mulvaney, president of a New-Jersey-based marketing firm (CMDS), urges companies not to stray away from online marketing. “It still requires content development and good optimization, and one search phrase is not going to bring you enough business to run a medium-size company,” he said.

Is CapitolRecords.music better than CapitolRecords.com?

Is CapitolRecords.music better than CapitolRecords.com?

Smaller companies, on the other hand, can become more creative in their marketing. Mulvaney also had this to say: “I believe ICANN is opening this up because the domains are very, very limited now. A lot of search names are being taken. It gives small- and medium-sized companies a little more creativity with their names.”

Successful small businesses already use online marketers and web design firms to increase customer traffic to their sites by using key phrases (or as it’s better known, search engine optimization). So is a custom domain name really a necessary expense?

The cost of having a unique domain name is certainly not to be taken lightly; a new URL could perhaps alienate loyal customers. I know that I’d get frustrated if I was used to typing in one address for my favorite independent retailer and it suddenly changed without my knowledge! I might even move over to one of their competitors. Custom domain names could also greatly affect those who heavily rely on their bookmarks to get to their favorite sites. If a website was saved as “.net” and it changed to “.chi” overnight, then the customer may never realize it and not know how to get to your new site. However, if the benefits for an individual company outweigh the negatives and a new, creative URL could greatly increase sales and customer loyalty, then I say go for it!

What do you think about the amount of available domain names increasing? Do you think it’s a good idea, or will it create more problems? Would you be more willing to visit a site if it were aimed at your geographic location?

Image credit to TimmyGUNZ


Amy Swanson

Amy is one of Quality Logo Products’ content developers and social media coordinators. She is a self-professed newspaper nerd and thoroughly enjoys reading business and financial news and having impromptu discussions about it. Oh yeah, she’s “one of those” people! A true Midwestern girl by nature, she loves riding her bike, photography, and the Chicago Cubs. You can also connect with Amy on

Comments

  1. JPorretto

    I dunno about this…. It’s so nice right now that if you know a company’s name, you just add .com and you usually get to their site. With this that’s no longer enough information. I don’t want to play guessing games with .whatevers, but maybe I’m just being and old fogey….

    • amy

      It’s interesting that you say that Jeff, because at first I was totally on board with this idea. However, after thinking about it I’m not so sure either. I’m worried that small companies are going to rush out and spend their money on a unique URL, but they won’t see the ROI because customers are still going to their competitors with the .com suffix.

      I really think this may be a ‘wait and see’ sort of decision. If it takes off, great by all means buy a quirky suffix, but if it doesn’t an already struggling company may be in more trouble because of it.

      • Amanda

        I agree with what you’re both saying here. I also think it will be a ‘wait and see’ thing….if it catches on great, if not, it won’t matter too much. I don’t see this as a necessary thing, but maybe it will be one day. I wonder if we could ever really run out of .com names.

        I could see a company as big as Pepsi doing this and it being successful, but a smaller company…I don’t think it will make a difference. But I do see how having something like .chi would be cool.

        • amy

          As a small company, I would worry that while having a fun domain name would initially set you apart when the buzz gets around. But after the ‘wow’ factor wears off what will happen? Customers may forget you and go back to the company with the .com name. Time will only tell I guess.

  2. Jana Quinn

    Great topic selection, Amy, and nice overview of some advantages and disadvantages to the new system. It’ll be interesting to see if those who buy a domain suffix (like Pepsi buying .pepsi) will then be able to sell domains from that name. For example, they could give away domains for free to fans as long as the URL ends in .pepsi. Think of the promotional possibilities.

    Also, I’m wondering if companies can buy generic suffixes like .pop or .soda. Is it only limited to trademarking/copyrighting your own brand name? What if your brand name IS also a generic word?

    I don’t think that companies have too much to worry about in terms of shifting over to new domains. Plenty of domain hosts offer automatic redirection (for example, thefacebook.com and facebook.com redirect to the same site), so bookmarked sites won’t automatically become defunct.

    I think this will overall help improve search results, especially if there are certain requirements that need to be met in order to grab suffixes. For example, only government agencies can have .gov suffixes:

    https://www.dotgov.gov/portal/web/dotgov

    And no, I did not make up that domain name.

    If websites could qualify for certain suffixes by being part of the Better Business Bureau or meet other requirements, that might help weed out some scams and cut back on content mills. Or maybe I’m just dreaming too big.

    It’s the mark of a savvy topic choice and a thought-provoking article to get my wheels spinning like this. I definitely could have gone on for another few hundred words. Awesome work, Amy. :)

    • amy

      I love your idea of giving away domains for free to fans as long as the URL ends in .pepsi! That’s an excellent way to promote a company further, and if a company is large enough to do this, why not?! As for the generic suffixes, it seems that ICANN has not addressed this yet.

      As of now, you would have to show a legitimate claim to the suffix you want to buy. Ideally, this should avoid the sort of claim-staking where people would buy up domain names for leading brands and sell them at highly inflated prices. Also, supposedly there’s 50 questions you will be asked, each requiring 2-3 pages for an answer and they’ll be analyzed by Icann’s panel of experts.

      It’s such an interesting topic, one that will certainly keep us on our toes in the future!

  3. Jenna

    Really interesting post, Amy! I hadn’t heard anything about this yet! I think using the domain names for more localized content is a great idea — since a lot of newspapers are doing similar things in the print world. Consumers are really into geographically specific information.

    However, I also feel like these new domain suffixes could get annoying, and I don’t know how quickly consumers will latch onto it. I know that I already get irritated if I type in a website and end it with .com, but can’t find it because it ends in .org or .net. I think custom domain suffixes will make it more difficult to remember a company’s website, since so many people are already used to .com. But it’s not like you can’t just Google the place you are looking for if you can’t remember the web address.

    • amy

      When I first read that ICANN was considering this I thought there’s no way they’d approve it. It’s a cool idea, but there’s a lot to consider in terms of website traffic and all that good stuff. However, since it did pass I guess it’s a waiting game to see how this works out. Hopefully, larger company’s who have the financial resources to test this out will and we can see how it works out for them ;)

    • Amanda

      Nice point Jenna! I am so glad that Google exists and that we can all always search for things. I don’t have to memorize web addresses because I can just search for them, and honestly, if someone never knew a full address to begin with, and they just Googled it, they’d come upon the same page and might not even notice that it went from .com to .chi I just don’t think it makes much of a difference.

  4. That Guy At Work

    This will probably break a fair amount of software that try to validate domain names and don’t allow arbitrary TLDs (top-level domains).

    Take an email address as an example: user@domain.com could now be user@domain.promo but software that validates the email address would say it’s an invalid email (if the validation is strict enough).

    Fixing all that software will be a cash cow for contractors!!!

    • amy

      Sweet, we can put the addition of jobs in the positive column of this issue :) Excellent point!

  5. cyberneticSAM

    I see this as a good and a bad thing. A good thing, as you stated, is that it will help smaller businesses and it will help eliminate the people who go and buy domain names and just hold on to them until they want to sell them to a business who needs it (which I never thought was fair). It could also be a bad thing, because it’s already hard enough to remember websites and now we’ll have to remember “businessname.(what ever word they choose).” Which I think will get a little annoying.

    • amy

      I agree 100% with you! It’s going to get frustrating when you’re typing in a store’s website for example and all of sudden you’re like, “is it still .com or is now .chicago or .store?!”

      I guess Google will be seeing more traffic though as people may just go there first to get to the business’s website. Great.

  6. Joseph Giorgi

    I’ve been fascinated by the prospect of new domain suffixes for a little while now, and this post is a great examination of the pros and cons.

    Personally, I’m just curious to see how it all plays out. Seeing as how the “.com” suffix has been a part of the public’s collective unconscious for the better part of 15 years, I can’t imagine that companies will be anxious to move domains. In doing so, they risk losing part of their online customer base. On the other hand, the notion of having fewer competitors in a new domain space is obviously a huge draw, particularly for online-only companies and young, unestablished startups.

    Honestly, I would love to see all kinds of new domains pop up. I’m all for having a more well-structured internet.

    Excellent post, Amy! Again, thought-provoking stuff. :)

    • amy

      It wouldn’t surprise me if ICANN’s theory backfires a little bit. Increasing the number of domain names will allow for more company’s to compete, but what happens if those larger businesses keep their ‘.com’ address as well as adding a ‘.whatever’ address to create buzz and excitement??

      Maybe that won’t even be an issue, I’m not sure if company’s can have more than one web address or not.

      I’m with you on the more organized and structured internet, bring it on!

  7. Ness

    I can definitely see this happening in the future, but I think it would probably be more controlled and limited at first to see where it goes. If it catches on, then all bets are off and every business might have their own suffix!

    When is http://www.qualitylogoproducts.qlp happening?

    • amy

      I think ICANN (totally had a flashback to kindergarten circle time when I said that in my head hahaha) will be watching very closely to see how this new plan works out.

      Just keep checking back regularly to see if we’ve changed our domain name or not ;)

  8. Mandy Kilinskis

    As long as the original .com sites link to the new .whatever, I don’t think that I’ll have much of a problem with it.

    I do, however, see this being a problem with the less-tech-savvy population. For example, my grandmother. She just started going online and buying things and sending e-mails. Now if we have to inform her that she now has to go to .flowers or .sewing to find what she wants, I anticipate a very blank face.

    • amy

      Awww, I hadn’t even thought of the poor senior citizen population (which is increasing in internet presence) having trouble adjusting :(

  9. Vern-Matic

    I feel sorry the most for those douchebags that register other people names as domains and then try to sell them to those people at a inflated price. Strongly doubt they would be able to pay the steep price for RussellPeters.comedy

    • amy

      I know, right?! Really, the only way you can earn a living is by doing this??? It’s ridiculous.

  10. Scooby

    The end result, after the dust settles, will be alot of money spent not just on the entry fee but on court fees. Who is going to decide who gets .car ? (think of how MANY brands there are out there), what about .homes, .mortgage, etc. It will be very interesting to see how that part works itself out.

    • amy

      I guess this goes along “That Guy at Work’s” comment in a way. More jobs will be created and more money put into the economy. However, more time will be wasted in the judicial system with these cases :P

  11. Jill Tooley

    This is really cool, but it’s probably not practical or cost-effective for small businesses. $185,000 is a LOT of money to drop on a domain suffix! I’m interested to see where this goes, if anywhere, and whether or not big brands like Pepsi or Coke will take advantage of custom domains when the time comes to buy.

    Your mention of “Honda.cars” made something click for me – this could do wonders for companies with similar names and/or in different fields who are looking to distinguish themselves. :)

    Great post, Amy!

    • amy

      Thanks Jill! I hadn’t thought about companies in other industries sharing names. You’re totally right with thinking this may make it easier to separate the two in customer’s minds! Around my house there’s two stores that share the same name, yet are in two completely different businesses. One is a grocery store and the other is a craft store, yet they have the same spelling. It’s so frustrating when you’re talking to someone about going to “X” and you’re like, “which one?” Excellent point!

  12. Jeannette Paladino

    I hadn’t known about ICANN’s deliberations. I think the idea of having geo or product related suffixes is a brilliant idea — I think we’re seeing the future.

    • amy

      I think we are too Jeannette! It’ll be interesting to watch how it unfolds!

  13. Wim @ Sales Sells

    Hi Amy, I think whether or not this will be a success largely depends on Google and how they will treat those new domain names. At this moment Google prefers .com/net/org (in that order) simply said (it’s a lot more complex of course). So how will they work the new custom domains into their algorithm? If it doesn’t give you a real advantage in terms of search ranking and traffic, you may want to ask yourself if it’s worth paying for.

    Thanks for keeping us up to date!
    Wim

    • amy

      That’s another excellent point! Since small businesses heavily rely on ranking and traffic to gain a competitive edge, this cost must be examined and weighed to determine if the money is truly worth it.

      Thanks for reading! :)

  14. Jenna

    This seems like a MAJOR drawback to me! Currently, if I’m looking for something, I can just type in a company name.com and am most likely going to find what I’m looking for. This seems like it’s going to make things WAY more complicated. Good domain names are still available, and I wish people wouldn’t feel the need to mess with a good thing. We’ll see….

  15. amy

    I do the same thing Jenna! If companies are feeling that there aren’t a lot of quality domain names left, perhaps they should think about how they’re advertising their website. If they aren’t able to get the domain name that they want and have to choose something slightly off-wall they need to publicize it. If Bobsfarm.com is taken, and they have to choose Bobsamazingfarm.net that’s fine, just let me know that’s where to find you.

    This is certainly shaping up to be a ‘wait and see’ scenario :)

  16. Diana Simon

    Hi Amy,

    This is really interesting topic and I would like to see what comes out of the meeting.

    I think if used in the right way, it can enhance the brand and help target local markets. I feel it will be more useful to brick and mortar companies than businesses which only maintain an online presence.

    With a price you have indicated, it’s probably way out of reach for many small businesses and so my idea is that it’s aimed at the big players who want to continue to build and maintain their presence online.

    Thanks for sharing this!
    Diana

    • amy

      Thanks for reading and posting Diana!

      I totally agree with your idea concerning local markets. The increased targeting that this may provide will certainly help companies gain a larger following from specific, local consumers. Using the coupon example especially, they can be geared towards specific locations instead of a blanket nationwide offering.

      More established companies will probably be the ones taking advantage of this considering the hefty price tag associated with purchasing one. It wouldn’t surprise me if keep their .com address as well as creating a .whatever one to get people talking about them as well as increasing their presence online.

      This topic is certainly creating quite a bit of buzz, and will continue to do so for a while I think. You have some great points!

  17. Victor

    Folks, just leave this alone for now (Small Businesses), and let see wht the big companies are going to do. The whole racinal behind any business, is (ROI). With small businesses really be willing to put the little resources that they have?

    • Amy Swanson

      I’m right there with you, Victor. Small companies just starting out shouldn’t be wasting precious financial resources on something that may or may not deliver the ROI that they want (and need).

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  18. Thom

    My biggest fear would be keeping track or verifying which companies I do business with have gone with another suffix. If I get correspondence from my bank, Wells Fargo, and it encourages me to visit a .wellsfargo, .wellsfargona, .wf or some other site, how do I know it’s legit? Also, if I was a business, how many permutations of my name do I need to secure. If I commonly use abbreviations in my business name, and I go with one format for the domain, how do I secure the other? Maybe the $185,000 goes to eliminate these possible issues. Or, I could be missing something here…

    • Amy Swanson

      You bring up a very interesting point with your Wells Fargo example, Thom. When it comes to money I’m extremely cautious of entering in personal information into a website that I’m not completely, 100% certain is my bank’s website. I’m sure we’re not the only 2 people who feel that way on the issue either!

      $185,000 is a lot of money to drop on something that may or may not be worth it in the end. I’d say to weigh your options carefully before you rush into any decision.

  19. Melany Wilcoxson

    Great post! I found it very insightful.

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