Lord and behold. The internet domain system has changed. Can you feel it? Do you sense the frantic buzz rippling through the web? The excitement?
Let’s roll back. When the internet was taking form beyond the initial strict academic and military use, four original domain names were pushed forward: X .com; X.net, X.edu; and X.gov. This was quickly followed by X.org, and gradually top level domain names were added: 22 general domain names exist today, together with an approved list of country codes (.us, .uk, .be, .ly, .me etc.).
Brands could construct their web presence in a very simple way: www. BRANDNAME. TOPDOMAINNAME , eg: www.google.com. Before the nineties, a domain name would set you back a couple of thousand dollar, these days, you can own your own domain name for less than 10 dollar a year, allowing all brands, organizations and individuals to play on a level field.
This has now changed. Fundamentally. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), approved the creation of generic top-level domains (TLDs) for brands and organizations. These top-level domain names will be awarded in batches, and up to 1000 new top level domain names per year.
This sounds exciting. Google can now apply to own X.google . Neat. There is a “but” though, a big one. Applying is not simple, and costs shiploads of money. The procedure to apply for a gTLD is described in a document that is over 350 pages. No kidding.
Initial application set-up cost is 5000 dollar. Add to that an evaluation fee of 180.000 dollar. The applications that are withheld will have to sign up for a period of minimum 10 years, at a yearly operating cost of around 100.000 dollar. The technical setup to be able to govern the domain name is estimated at around half a million to one million euro. Wow.
Hefty. So only big brands, and big organizations will be able to carry the burden of owning an own top level domain. Google applied for over a hundred (including X.google; X.youtube etc); Amazon for over seventy (including X.amazon, X.kindle etc.). For lots of small brands, the financial consequences are simply too steep for the moment to compete with the Big Boys, or to try to win their own domain.
There is another big “but”: Amazon and Google are arm-wrestling for X.music. Wait a minute. Music is generic. Whoever has the top-level X.music domain has a considerable competitive advantage. Same with X.cloud; X.film; X.tickets. Honestly, it gives me the creeps that big companies are bidding for generic domains like X.music or X.cloud. Generic domains should be available to all, not restricted to a monolithic power brand with insane spending power. It’s not right, not good, and should not be allowed.
Ethically, I have no problem with an organization or brand owning its own top-level domain name. That makes sense, and will make URL’s more logic and comprehensive. There are without a doubt also considerable marketing and communications advantages. The steep entry and running costs however will de facto rule out smaller brands. In one day, the web just became a lot less democratic. From now on, there will be the HAVE’s and the HAVE-NOT’s. That is a shame. On the web all were equal. Now some will be a lot more equal than others…
On the upside, as one of my clients pointed out: there is hope for humanity. X.love received 7 bids. X.sex only 2…