The Future Of Brand Domains
It may take a long time, but powerful new economic forces are about to make their presence felt on the internet. 680 giant corporations will launch their own brand domain strings backed by many of the world's most successful marketing and advertising experts. The budgets will be big.
If the successful launch of relatively new domain extensions (such as .co) can be any guide, then the web in 2020 and beyond will be a very different space.
Allstate. Application for the .allstate extension.
The new domains make sense. They have an implacable logic. They are memorable and short. They are trustworthy.
After you spend a few days looking at them they don't seem strange at all.
The brand domains will present new and unprecedented opportunities for innovation and differentiation. A new goldrush of communications and ideas.
Progressive. Application for the .progressive extension.
The Internet is growing at a fast rate with no signs of slowing down. ICANN's new TLD program will almost certainly accelerate this expansion as individuals and companies grasp the new opportunities that the brand domains will offer.
Tata. Application for the .tata extension.
NOTE: second level = left of the dot.
Prestige and Authority
It has long been the case that any major international company must have the dot com domain of its name. Apple has to own Apple.com and GeneralElectric must own GeneralElectric.com.
Somewhere around half of the world's top 1000 corporations have applied for their own brand domain. It's entirely possible that the dot brands will begin to emerge as valuable status symbols for their owners. Just as it became obligatory to own a dot com at the million dollar level, it may become obligatory to possess your own dot brand at the multi-million dollar level.
This presents a risk for players in some competitive industries. There is no greater example than in the credit card space. Amex and Visa have applications pending for .amex and .visa.
However, Mastercard has no application in place for .mastercard.
Amex and Visa are certain to exploit this advantage with the rollout of prestigious domains like Travel.amex and Cash.visa.
The brand domains are all about trust, and since only large successful companies will be able to afford the expense of launching one, those who do will reap a fine dividend of prestige and authority.
Many companies are about to discover that their competitors are gearing up to launch dedicated brand domains. The new strings will be used in inventive, unprecedented and eye-catching ways. The dot brands will try to extract whatever asymmetric advantage they can in the fiercely competitive online space. For some firms who didn't apply, it will create a very challenging environment.
Roland LaPlante. Senior Vice President. Afilias. Afilias is the .info registry and a leading registry provider for many brand domain applicants.
Want info on the fourth most popular gTLD in the world? Interview by Mike Sullivan. Sully's Blog.
The schedule for the next round of TLD applications has not been announced and is expected to be several years away.
The dot brands present a unique opportunity for corporations to both distinguish themselves from their non-brand rivals, and to unify their identity and communications in a new way. In a sense, the corporations will be able to create closed ecosystems of content or private internets.
Delta. Application for the .delta extension.
There is significant inherent potential in the brand domains. The TLD applications talk about a wide range of innovations that are under evaluation. They also talk about the unprecedented benefits and potential that they may be able to deliver.
Oracle. Application for the .oracle extension.
There are certain to be innovations on the horizon that no-one has yet dreamed of.
It has been suggested that every Canon camera sold could ship with its own instant domain and website (based on the serial number). These sites would have automatic photo galleries. Your photos could be sent to the cloud in a couple of clicks. This is just one hypothetical example of possible futures that are coming.
In its application for the .ibm string, IBM mentions that it currently holds 259 names in its domain name portfolio. Then, it goes on to mention that there are more than 17,000 named IBM products and services available. There is a big difference between the numbers. Once again there is enormous potential on the horizon.
IBM. Application for the .ibm extension.
Microsoft is very aware that its new company string has great potential to leverage and augment the existing prestige and power of its brand. Domains like Cloud.microsoft and Xbox.microsoft have great potential as virtual trademarks if the company chooses to implement them this way.
Microsoft. Application for the .microsoft extension.
Some Applicants are wise enough to acknowledge that they do not yet know the full scope and every potential use of their brand domains. Hence it would be hard to believe that there won't be some dramatic but unpredictable innovations coming soon in this new space.
Merck KGaA. Application for the .merck extension.
Trust And Authenticity
A feature common to many of the brand domain applicants is their recognition that the brand strings which by their nature means they are all operated by a sole registrant have a potential intrinsic high level of trust and authenticity. With nobody else permitted to own a domain under the unbrella of a brand TLD, consumers will quickly come to understand that every website is a genuine corporate site.
In this regard, the brand domains will have a big advantage over the dot com space. Some may come to prefer the dot brand space over the dot com space when shopping, for example.
Some applicants specifically state that they hope to attain the trusted status of extensions like .edu and .gov.
Hughes. Application for the .hughes extension.
String Confusion And Branding
ICANN's new TLD program has generated many controversies. One of these is string confusion. For example, Verisign as the registry that operates the .com string has objected to the .cam string. The rationale is that users may be misled by confusingly similar domain names. There have been similar objections to .game V .games and so on.
Is it in the public interest for there to be two sites Online.game and Online.games operated by two different companies?
Sport.com V Sport.cam?
The situation is not unique to generic domain names. It might also be an issue in the future with some of the brand domains. If your company has a brand (like "Ontel" or "Phillips" with two "l"s) that is similar to an existing dot brand its possible that you may not be able to transition over to right of the dot.
Some companies may have to consider re-branding themselves if the dot brands become a great success. This principle may also apply to companies with long, hard to spell names like Lamborghini, which is an applicant for a brand TLD.
Northwestern Mutual has not chosen to shorten its .northwesternmutual TLD. The German operator of .allfinanzberatung will face a challenge if it wishes to operate outside Germany.
If brand domains do become de rigueur for large corporations, then various advertising, investment and legal companies with long-tail names like Bloggs Shmoe Jones White Black Corp. will face a challenge.
The program may ultimately lead to some serious re-branding.
Many of the applicants for the brand domains are planning to proceed cautiously. They are keeping a close watchful eye on what initiatives the other corporations implement.
It is very probable that over time, various conventions will emerge that will characterize the brand domains. Given the magnitude and number of the dot brand applicants, the significance is likely to be great.
Bridgestone. Application for .bridgestone TLD.
One question that is difficult to answer is what will be the name of the flagship in each domain string?
Names like Microsoft.microsoft and Ferrari.ferrari sound a bit crazy, though they are unmistakeable.
Names like Home.microsoft and Home.ferrari are logical, but a little unexciting.
Of course, the companies will all retain their dot com flagship domains like Microsoft.com and Ferrari.com into the foreseeable future.
Some companies state in their applications that they will trial redirecting content to their new TLDs.
A number of applications specifically mention using "search" at the second level in their domains for example Search.honda, Search.bridgestone and Search.fujitsu.
Various conventions are sure to emerge as the Applicants observe consumer interaction and analyse traffic data as they seek the best solutions.
Brand names mentioned on this site are registered trademarks or trademarks of their respective corporations. This site claims no association with or endorsement by any of these corporations and their marks are mentioned only to illustrate opinion presented in the public interest.
For a comprehensive overview of the brand domains and their impact on the web, refer to ICANN's website and the individual applications (large parts of which are publicly published).
If you have a particular interest in an individual company, the public aspects of their applications are available for download via the following ICANN links: You can also search a complete list of applicants there.
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