What's in a Domain Name?

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Picking a name for your new Web site is about to become a lot more complicated. Approximately 1,400 Web suffixes, like .PLAY, .lifestyle, .Paris, and .mcdonalds, may soon join familiar domains such as .com and .org, giving businesses many more choices to play with. To help marketers understand what this means for them, Jennifer Wolfe, founder and CEO of the advisory firm Wolfe Domain, and Anne Chasser, former commissioner of trademarks for the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, share how to prepare for the changing landscape in their new book, Domain Names Rewired. Associate Editor Judith Aquino caught up with Wolfe to get a glimpse at what marketers need to know about the new domain names.

CRM: When can we expect to see the first of these new domains?

Jennifer Wolfe: Each company that applied for a new gTLD (generic Top-Level Domain) received a lottery number to determine the order in which their application will be reviewed for approval. The applications will be eligible for launch on a rolling basis based upon the prioritzation draw, which could be as early as the fourth quarter of 2013 but more likely early 2014. If another company applied for the same name, the companies will have to resolve the conflict. If you don't resolve it on your own by the time your turn rolls around, it goes to the highest bidder. That's what adds some excitement to this process, because many of Amazon's and Google's applications, such as for .cloud and .book, are in conflict. We know they're going to move to get these things up and running as fast as they can once they hit their green-light date.

CRM: What happens next?

Wolfe: The companies will have to decide what they'll do with the domains. Amazon, for example, has .PLAY and Google has .GOOG. After they launch those top-level domains, they can choose to sell the second-string domain [e.g., names directly to the left of .PLAY].

CRM: What can marketers do to prepare for these new domains?

Wolfe: If you haven't applied for a top-level domain, that window is closed. What marketers need to do now is understand the landscape. Companies will have a competitive edge if they understand that they'll soon be able to start buying up those second-string domains. Ask yourself, which top levels impact my industry? Which second-string domains do I want? Do I want to use my company name or names related to my category? Think strategically about what you want, because we're basically going to go from a dot.com world to having close to 2,000 potential top-level domains to choose from.

CRM: How can businesses make sure they get the domains they want?

Wolfe: Monitor ICANN [The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which oversees the Internet's addressing system] and Internet domain registrars for when those top-level domains will be launched so that you know when the land rush period starts. The buying process will be no different from what you do when you go on GoDaddy right now, except it will be on a larger scale. For example, if you're interested in buying yourbrand.fashion, when .fashion goes live, you want to go on GoDaddy that day and buy the domain you want before someone else does.

CRM: What are the risks of sticking with original domains like .com and .org?

Wolfe: You need to be careful. When Google, Amazon, and other major companies start to educate people to move away from sites that end in .com, you're at risk of [those domains] becoming diluted in value. Search is the other big piece. If you think of these top-level domains as acting like zip codes or segmenting the Internet into categories, being in a .com will be like being in a big bucket where no one can find you. If you choose some top-level domains that are related, in theory, your search will become more effective.

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