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What does your business need to do about the new top level domains?

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The “bit after the dot” has never made for great dinner party conversation. Let’s face it, web suffixes are a relatively dry subject, seemingly of relevance to black art SEO specialists and digital marketing gurus but few others. That is however, until now.

Hundreds of new gTLDs or generic Top Level Domains, are set to go live within the coming weeks and months and, in the process, have a highly-significant impact on the web and how businesses position themselves on it.

But what does it mean for your business?

For a new business, the days of having to be creative to the point of confusion with a name in order to find an available domain are soon to be gone forever. 

GTLDs will offer a whole new world of opportunity for getting creative with a website address. Businesses will be afforded the digital luxury of making themselves catchy and relevant by industry (.construction), by location (.london) or even by specialism (.plumbing)

For existing businesses however, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. With literally hundreds of gTLDs set to flood the market, it will be almost impossible for big businesses, and even smaller ones, to truly keep on top of their brand strategy and mitigate risks of brand damage, fraud and counterfeiting. 

Buying the full domain portfolio for an existing business domain, is for most, not a viable option but imagine waking up to find a new site created under the domain – www.Your-Brand.sucks – a legitimate possibility with .sucks being in the initial batch of gTLDs released. Although ICANN have introduced various initiatives to protect trade mark holders, with the sheer number of trademarks worldwide, the potential for disorder is high.

What do existing businesses need to do?

1. Pre-register for domains

For smaller businesses, it’s advisable to try and secure any gTLDs that are highly relevant to the nature of business itself and/or its location. However, with the Registry deciding the ‘appeal’ and therefore the attributable value of a domain name, some can be priced at up to $9,000, meaning small businesses may have to be very selective as to which they register as protection or for potential marketability.

2. Register your trademark

For larger businesses with more established brands, registering your trademark is a must. With gTLD launches already taking place and countless others rolling out over the coming months, those that haven’t yet acted time would be wise to do so quickly.

ICANN introduced the Trademark Clearinghouse as a relatively inexpensive means of recording proprietary trademarks in a centralized, authenticated database. By applying to the Trademark Clearinghouse, trademark owners will not need to register their marks in a number of different databases as the New gTLDs are introduced.

3. Take advantage of the “sunrise” period

Before each launch, “sunrise” periods are also in place so that trademark proprietors who have registered their marks at the Trademark Clearinghouse can pre-register with the new gTLDs before these become publicly available. Sunrise periods commonly operate around two months before launch and therefore leave a relatively small window in which a brand needs to act.

Undoubtedly, the biggest brands with the most to gain and to lose will have long-since put significant resources behind brand protection and proper exploitation of the gTLD roll out. 

For smaller UK businesses there is, however, the potential of being left flat-footed through misunderstanding the significance of the change. With more people than ever doing the majority of their business on the web, when new territory is opened as it is now, it’s more important than ever to stake claim on any crucial real estate.

Alison Curry Taylor is operations director at Daily Internet.

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