July 23, 2010, 1:31 PM

New domains? No thanks

Don Davis

Editor in Chief

This week’s launch of the .co domain brings to mind the possibility that retailers could before long be faced with deciding how to deal with many more top-level domains in addition to the ones we all know, such as .com, .gov, .edu and .org. That’s because ICANN, the organization that oversees the Internet’s addressing system, has been considering—for a few years now—a proposal to dramatically increase the number of top-level domains. Advocates think it would be great if cities could have domains like .nyc or .london, enthusiasts could navigate to .music or loyal customers of retailers could shop at web sites that end with .amazon or .bestbuy.

ICANN has not yet approved the concept in large part because of the opposition of retailers and other large corporations. Those companies realize they would have to pay hefty fees to many domain registrars to protect their brands. Amazon may not feel the need to create an amazon.rome site, but they don’t want anyone else using that URL to market to shoppers in Italy’s capital. Given that there could be many new top-level domains if this proposal is approved, the fees could add up.

Just this week, online retailer Overstock.com announced it had paid $350,000 for the domain name O.co, making it one of the first to take advantage of the new .co domain. Overstock had its own reasons—as it moves to sell a broader range of merchandise and not just excess inventory, it’s trying to rebrand itself as O, a name that doesn’t say overstocked goods the way Overstock.com does. Chances are most URLs would not be so costly.

But why pay anything when these new domains have no reason for being? This may have been a good idea a decade ago, but now search engines make it obsolete. If someone in Rome, or anywhere else, wants to find Amazon, all they have to do is Google it. You’ll get to Amazon.com, or a local version of it, such as Amazon’s European gateway to its British, French and German sites. If your musical interests runs to jazz, hip-hop or a particular artist, all you have to do is search for your interest and you’ll get all the options you need. I don’t think a .music domain would make your life easier.

The only beneficiary would be the domain registrars that could charge fees for the new Internet addresses. Not surprisingly, they’re the ones behind the proposal to allow new top-level domains. But I’ve yet to hear a coherent argument why a retailer would support the idea. Retailers have plenty of better ways to spend their money.


Comments | 6 Responses

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  • Sure, in theory you can use any old domain name and users can still find you on Google but there are flaws in that thinking. First, search competition is tough and not all brands/retailers are well-known. A hammock retailer with an obscure name is not going to be searched for when someone is searching for hammocks. The user doesn't know the brand name so they are more likely to search on a keyword when they don't know a brand. The keyword hammocks will be searched, so the keyword domain Hammocks.com becomes a desirable domain as it can rank higher. Consider also that many retailers will spend millions of dollars on ad campaigns branding a domain name offline. They will likely want a specific domain for these efforts and often those domains can be used by other companies. For example, I'm a competitor to Hammocks.com, so maybe we should try Hammocks.TV What about an internet retailer that doesn't currently own a decent domain name and covets a better one ? Overstock is the perfect example as they covet O.com I'm sure more than any other domain. . . buying O.co was the next best choice for them and it protects the brand. I can sympathize with the issue that brands will have to rake out extra money to register all the variations of their domain as each new domain is released, but I would argue this is not a necessity by any means and their hands are not being forced in to this. Most global brands are already protecting themselves and at a certain level this cost is negligible ($1000 annually maybe?) . Small-midsize companies likely don't even bother registering their brands in new and alternative extensions as their brand in .com usually suffices and the other extensions aren't really diluting that brand .There are already hundreds of extension in both global (gTLDs) and country code domains (ccTLDs) so this problem is not a new one.

  • The example of using the domain Hammocks.TV to compete with Hammocks.com--a retailer that's already corralled the key URL for the .com domain--is the first good argument I've heard for new top-level domains. Thanks for the post. Don Davis, editor, Internet Retailer magazine.

  • I completely agree with the switch to .CO domains. Although it will be able to reach a group of retailers that already have their key domain taken. It would also be beneficial to companies trying to rebrand their company name, such as Overstock purchasing O.Co (for $350,000) in efforts to move away from Overstock to simply "O". When all is said in done, and if .Co takes off, the internet could be better organized than it is now. Great post, Don!

    • alecdwilliams: Don's post was being sarcastic!

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