The new GTLDs: A Slow Motion Marketing Car Crash Waiting to Happen

by Edwin on September 11, 2011

The new GTLDs are going to turn into a dismal failure.

You only have to look at how little traction .biz and .info have gained in the mind of the average consumer, in spite of their decade in the marketplace and their real-life use by hundreds of thousands of companies, to see how this farce is going to play itself . Those extensions faced an insurmountable hurdle in the form of the onslaught of billions of pounds’ worth of marketing budgets being spent on effectively “branding” the .co.uk or .com extension in the minds of consumers. Every time a URL gets mentioned on TV, on the radio, or shown on a poster, in a newspaper or magazine, on the side of a vehicle, or in innumerable other venues, that’s one more iteration of the “.co.uk” or “.com” mantra.

Now imagine a new GTLD contender, by definition registered to a single company or narrow-purpose entity. How much will even the largest corporations on Earth be able to make headway against the millions and millions of SMEs and larger firms who have been promoting and continue to promote .co.uk and .com? You’d have a better chance of hearing the sound of a single hand clapping in the middle of a thunderstorm!

Take the example of .nike, as representative of a “large brand”. It would be self-destructive in the extreme for Nike to switch to promoting .nike extensions exclusively, since they would be throwing away every penny they’d spent on branding Nike.com over the years. At the same time, the average consumer reaction is likely to be a shrug and a “Silly Nike, they’ve misprinted their URL” if they even pick up on the fact that it’s supposed to be a URL in the first place. After all, we’re conditioned to intuitively understand that something that begins “www” and ends “.co.uk” is a URL. But something that begins in “www” and ends “.nike”? That’s just a recipe for blank stares all round…

It is immensely telling that most of the largest ad industry associations in the UK, including the ASA, have come out publicly alongside their counterparts overseas to oppose the need for these new GTLDs.

The biggest winner is ICANN, which stands to rake in cash to the tune of tens of thousands of times the US$180,000 application fee. And not forgetting, of course, some of the “open” new GTLD registries, which will no doubt be laughing all the way to the bank as they lure unwary businesses into registering domains that will turn out to be a marketing albatross around their collective necks.

Though there’s going to be a period of uncertainty until the dust settles and a “crystal clear” verdict is delivered by the marketplace as to the worthlessness of the new GTLDs, failure is inevitable, as anyone able to read the e-tealeaves has no doubt already deduced.

Meanwhile those of us sitting pretty on portfolios of generic .com and .co.uk domains have nothing to do but bide our time, waiting on the sidelines until the last big uncertainty of the domain industry gets flushed out of the system and the supremacy of the “original and best” domain extensions is no longer in doubt.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Dashworlds September 11, 2011 at 4:10 am

Pumping out a mixture of hope and fear, ICANN’s new gTLD program aims to cause maximum knee-jerk reaction wherever it goes. Assisted by a small group of associates and using finely honed scare tactics, the anticipation is that Internet users won’t mind several million dollars going into the pockets of a select collection of gTLD salesmen.

It is important to remember that ICANN and their associates are just one part of an infinite and evolving universe and that alternatives are already available (e.g. it’s now possible to register new style Dashcom domain names like “business-com” or “jazz-music” or “happy-birthday” at zero cost).

It’s only a matter of time before other new options surface – none of which will have anything to with ICANN.

Disclaimer: Author provides Dashcom domain names.

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Kevin Murphy September 11, 2011 at 9:46 pm

It’s worth noting that .biz and .info were both the second-choice strings of their respective applicants. Afilias and Neustar both were shooting for .web — .biz and .info were their back-ups.

The main reason we have .biz and .info today is basically because Vint Cerf felt sorry for Chris Ambler, who’d been running .web in an alternate root for a number of years.

The difference this time is that the winning strings will not be picked by the ICANN board of directors. You apply for what you think you can effectively market, and you either win it or you don’t.

By the way, a lot of the big brands you say would be crazy to throw away their investments in their brand.com domains by getting a .brand are currently throwing ad money into promoting facebook.com/brand URLs. That seems crazier to me.

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Adam September 13, 2011 at 5:13 am

Brands want to be where the action is Kevin. They want to be hip and not miss the boat. They did the same thing with AOL and the AOL keyword thing. “Find us on AOL keyword “brand” “.

A commenter here had it right . . . “don’t get caught up in the hype and ignore your other online properties but continue to integrate and optimize all your digital assets and the synergy will surprise you.”
http://www.jeffbullas.com/2011/03/21/is-facebook-killing-off-the-company-website/

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Edwin September 17, 2011 at 2:12 am

The IAB, whose 500+ members represent 86% of online advertising in the US, has just come out strongly against the new GTLDs.
http://www.iab.net/about_the_iab/recent_press_releases/press_release_archive/press_release/pr-081511

This follows similar noises from the ASA and other large advertising bodies.

It is incredibly telling that the stakeholders that ICANN has been promoting as most likely to benefit from the new GTLDs (i.e. “brands”) are also the most united in condemning the roll-out.

IP and trademark lawyers are going to party like it’s 1999, that much is for sure!

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