This year, businesses and webmasters tired of the usual .com, .net and .org domains are in luck, as domain name authority ICANN is making hundreds of new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) available to trademark holders and the general public. ICANN began releasing dozens of gTLDs back in October 2013, with over 630 planned for release throughout 2014. In total, over 1,900 gTLDs are expected to be released by 2015.
For many businesses and webmasters, it means that they’ll no longer be restricted to using one of the 22 gTLDs that existed since 1985. Businesses and webmasters in search of a swanky new domain name or one that better reflects their website will now have hundreds to choose from by year’s end.
In an era where search engine rankings can make or break websites, domain names hold even greater importance. According to experts, those who are presented with a page of search results find their choices swayed by domain names at least 25 percent of the time, with many users trusting certain reputable domain names over others when browsing relevant search results.
An In-Depth Look into the New gTLD System
According to ICANN, there are three distinct types of gTLDs to be introduced:
Closed – Restricted to companies that have purchased their own names for internal use.
Restricted – Available to applicants meeting specific criteria. For example, companies applying for a city domain name must be based in the city in question.
Open – Available to any applicant, similar to how most domains are purchased today.
Many aspiring domain name owners who want to get their hands on profitable gTLDs may find that their ship has already sailed, since many top name companies have already gotten first choice, as explained in further detail below.
Sunrises and Landrushes
Although the first new gTLDs are already appearing in the wild, anyone looking to get their hands on one must keep in mind two important periods – the 60-day “sunrise” period and the 30-day “landrush” period. During the sunrise period, registered trademark holders are given first claim to domain names using the new gTLD. This period is designed to prevent opportunistic applicants from swiping well-known domain names (i.e. “Pepsi.cola”) before companies get around to registering them.
Afterwards, the 30-day landrush period comes into play, where any applicant can apply for domain names that trademark holders haven’t already locked up. If two or more parties apply for the same domain name, ICANN will intervene and arrange a settlement to resolve the issue. This has already happened in the case of Google, Famous Four Media and Amazon, who’ve applied for the .play domain. If none of the parties are able to come to an agreement, the parties go to auction and the domain goes to the highest bidder.
After the landrush period ends, the new gTLDs are made available to the general public on a first-come, first-served basis, similar to how the current crop of gTLDs are assigned today. Internet users can expect to see their Internet surfing experience changed dramatically as businesses big and small start promoting the use of their new domain names.