Soon companies might be able to own their own domains such as .apple, .gm, or .sony. Currently there are only 22 generic top-level domains (gTLDs) in existence such as .com, .org., and .info, as well as about 250 country-specific domains like .uk or .cn. But after the possible change, the number of gTLDs could grow exponentially.
ICANN, the body that coordinates internet names, has yet to make a decision on the matter that could revolutionize online business. It would not only allow companies with their own domains to send visitors more directly to parts of their sites, but would also change the way search engines like Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) find and compile results, as well as the way SEO is used to improve a site’s visibility when using search engines.
Theo Hnarakis, chief executive of Australian domain name-registration firm Melbourne IT DBS says that companies not opting into their own domain name are doing so at their own peril. He suggests that big companies with a known brand at least buy the domain, even if they don’t currently have plans in place for using it. Just think of the detriment to a brand like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) should someone else purchase the .apple domain name.
ICANN makes the decision today, and applications are likely to open in January for a 90-day period, after which they will stop accepting applications for an undetermined amount of time. Applications will cost $185,000 and applicants will have to show a legitimate claim to the name. Besides big brands and corporations, organizations such as cities and communities are also expected to apply. Smaller businesses could then use the domain name of the community in which they were located. For example, a small beach-side venue in Miami that sells swimwear might not have been able to get swimwear.com or swimwear.net, but it could get swimwear.miami.
Because of the potential to revolutionize businesses, as well as crush them, ICANN is taking the new gTLDs very seriously, instituting measures to determine who is and isn’t eligible, and policing domain names even after they are sold. In order to prevent “cyber-squatting” in which companies buy a domain name only to keep it from being used by someone else, owners of gTLDs will be expected to maintain operational sites. ICANN will also have to approve any sales or transfers to new owners.
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