With todays announcement by ICANN (Internet Committee for Assigned Names and Numbers) of the positive decision to allow companies to define their own global top level domain names (gTLD), many of you may well be left wondering what this will mean for your business.

At present there are only a handful of gTLDs available. Some, like .uk are reserved for citizens of a particular country whilst others such as .com, .org and others are available for all to buy into.

This decision widens the market and will allow companies, corporations and individuals to identify their domain directly at their target audience. Many companies have already indicated that they are aiming to buy their respective company names as gTLD domains, amongst them the likes of Canon, Google and Microsoft.

However before you all go rushing out to purchase your own gTLD be warned. This privilege comes with a hefty price tag attached. The announcement has indicated that the application will cost you $185,000 (a little over £114,000) and only 1000 domains will be issued each year.

If you do happen to have a spare hundred k knocking about and don’t feel like donating it to a “worthy cause” then you’d better get your application ready as the process will open on January 12th 2012 and run till April 12th 2012.

For the average user, the chances are that this decision won’t affect them very much, however for business this could have wide ranging implications. Many common names will be bought up for later re-sale and users will then have to “buy into” that market. This alone will then be used to target search traffic, where for example if a web-user is out looking for somewhere good to eat, the chances are that priority will be given to domains ending with a “.restaurant” domain name. Likewise, users searching for a web or graphics designer will likely have their search tailored to URLs ending with “.design”.

Now I’m not suggesting for a moment that if you don’t buy a targeted domain that your site won’t get listed in the results, however it would be prudent to pay attention to which gTLDs get registered each year and see if your business falls into any of those categories.

Its not all about money or rankings though. This decision stands to make an impact on the war against spam and phishing. Legitimate businesses will be able to buy into so-called “Protected domains”. For example, if a bank was to buy into this, it may have the gTLD “.bank” – as this would be a protected domain, it would help in identifying what is authentic from what is a fraudulent site.

The application process for new gTLDs is likely to be long and intensive. Once an application has been made, it may take many months, if not years before the domain is granted, and during that time indications are that your business will be put under a virtual microscope to see if you actually have a right to own that particular domain.

Of course the pessimist in me wants to say “yeah but I bet some fraudsters still get through” whilst the optimist is screaming “finally, a chance to clean up a bit and organise the web”.

I for one am all in favour of this decision although I have to say that it’s a long time overdue.

For more information about this decision, please visit the ICANN website (www.icann.org)

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