Domain disruption: Is .com passé?

The screen flickers and the hard drive hums. A man is seated hunched forward, concentrating on the screen. Click, click - a smile crosses his face. He has just placed the winning bid in an online auction for a new domain and now owns ''.

The release of new domain names is being hailed as one of the biggest changes to the internet since its inception. It is the first time in more than a decade that new web domains are being made available by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the online world.

Top-level domains are listed on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) website.
Scott Eells | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Top-level domains are listed on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) website.

Until this year, web users could choose from just 22 top-level domain names such as .com, .org and .biz. Because the number of options for website names is running out, ICANN is releasing over 1,000 new domain names to increase choice and allow greater competition and innovation.

However not all of these new domains will resonate with consumers. Existing domains such as .info and .biz have been slow to take off and are seen as second-tier as compared to .com. According to the Wall Street Journal, 112 million of the world's 147.3 million web addresses are still .com -- not counting country domains like .de or .fr.

So who will be the domain name winners that will be released this time around?

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It will depend on how likely the new domain names are to help businesses and organisations broadcast their identities. New domain names that are a well-known word in many languages, have positive associations, and are easy to type such as .love or .global will be at an advantage.

As time goes on the quantity and quality of the businesses using a new domain name will be critical in establishing it as a trusted alternative to .com. For small-business owners and budding entrepreneurs wanting to create a strong and differentiated identity, the new domain names represent an invaluable opportunity to better define their online presence.

Going back to our opening example, say that you are the leader of a team of ambitious software coders sitting in London ready to launch a site that will compete with Expedia. From day one you will want to communicate your international aspirations and reach. A .global domain name is ideal to help establish your values and create your brand.

Similarly, as the initial prices for most domains lie in the $50-$500 range, it makes sense for small businesses to consider the new domain names being made available -- such as for an independent fashion label, or for a local coffee roaster.

However there will also be restrictions when it comes to who can register for new the domains. In most cases, some domain names are closed off because they are brand extensions such as .ford or .axa. Others will be restricted to specific communities, or those businesses or organisations that meet certain criteria e.g. with .bank.

On the other hand, there will be open domains free for anyone to buy, and there are a variety of business models outlined by the owners of these domains -- ranging from cheap mass-market domains to more expensive and more exclusive domains where the inventory is more closely controlled. A list of the domains and the order they are being released can be found on ICANN's website.

Preparation key for big brands

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Given these rules, it is not surprising that big business have been preparing for the launch of the new domain names, including obtaining their own domain names, such as .apple, .google and .microsoft to protect their intellectual property.

As the internet continues to develop, and increasingly become businesses' largest source of new customers, the approach of having more than just one domain will evolve. A music service provider such as Spotify may want to create communities within its core audience and look to secure,, and for this purpose.

Regardless of whether you are a big or small business, established or emerging, the release of the new domains will change the landscape of the internet and affect the way consumers interact with brands online. For the businesses ready and willing to act, rewards have the potential to be enormous.

The Rolf Larsen, is CEO and founder of dot GLOBAL and a pioneer of internet access, domain name registrar and web-hosting services in Europe.

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