While ICANN’s New gTLD Program is likely to be the largest expansion of the top-level domain name space to date, it is certainly not the first. Before ICANN was created, the Internet had eight gTLDs, including .COM, .NET and .ORG. Between 2000 and 2004, ICANN approved a total of 14 new gTLDs in two separate batches. These include .BIZ, .MOBI, .TRAVEL and others. Many regard these gTLDs as unsuccessful because of their low amounts of second-level domain registrations (.MOBI has a little over 1 million registrations, as compared to .COM, which has over 80 million), but also because of their low rates of adoption by Internet users. This has led many people to believe that new gTLDs will only succeed if they are widely adopted and Internet users begin typing them into their browsers.

Whether or not this will be the case for certain new gTLDs has yet to be determined, but it will likely not be the case for branded gTLDs owned by companies. .COM, and all the domain names ending in .COM, will still exist once new gTLDs are rolled out, and fundamentally, there is no inherent difference between a domain ending in an existing gTLD or ccTLD and one ending in a new gTLD. That means that brand owners can use new gTLD domains in advertising and marketing materials, but redirect them back to .COM URLs. This is, essentially, the best of both worlds because both users who adopt new gTLDs as well as those who do not will be able to access the same content.

In fact, given that many brand owners have already invested significantly in optimizing their current domains to rank well in search engine results, and that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of links across the Internet lead to all brand sites, redirecting new gTLD domains to existing .COM domains will probably be the smart move for brand owners for at least the first few years that new gTLDs are in existence. This rule will hold true for brand owners that incorporate new gTLDs into their existing Internet architecture. Of course, the exception will be for those brand that decide to use new gTLDs for an entirely new and separate purpose; for example, those that operate an open registry system or those that apply for category terms as gTLDs (as opposed to trademarked brand terms).

Josh Bourne
Don’t Say Goodbye to .COM Just Yet