Source: Monday, June 20th, 2011

Here come the domains

The .coms, .nets, and .orgs of the world are about to see a whole new wave of competition. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) finalized new rules this week that would significantly broaden the volume of generic top-level domains on the Internet. (That’s right World Wide Web, get ready for .lee)

The expansion paves the way for new sites ending in such suffixes as .law, .coke, and .nyc to begin populating the Internet, perhaps as soon as mid-2012. But just what are the benefits of offering a whole slew of new domain opportunities? For a company like HSBC or Verizon, it’s chiefly about branding and security.

“The way things are now, technically anyone can buy a dot-com domain to imply a relationship with a brand,” Ben Crawford, CEO of consulting firm dotBrand Solutions, tells CNNMoney. Crawford adds that new domains will be enticing to companies, both in terms of marketing benefits and security improvements. “HSBC, for example, could tell customers that a purported HSBC site isn’t legitimate unless it ends in .hsbc,” CNNMoney contributor Julianne Pepitone writes. “And a company like Verizon could market products at cellphones.verizon and store locations at losangeles.verizon.”

Pepitone goes on to say that such perks come at a hefty price: a single ICANN domain registration will run you $185,000 and require as much as 150 pages of policy documents. Then there’s technical set-up (roughly $100,000) followed by upkeep (another $100,000 annually). That’s chump change for Verizon — untenable for your average small to medium-sized business, however.

Nonetheless, ICANN’s announcement marks a significant move forward for an organization that has approached domain expansion at a snail’s pace. Since 2000, it has slowly rolled out only a handful of new domain names, partly because such names can have a widespread impact on the Web’s domain structure. With interest already coming from the likes of Unicef, Deloitte, Hitachi, and Canon, you can bet the march of the domains will shift into high gear.

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