ICANN (the corporation that controls top-level domain names) announced today that they will be introducing new domain suffixes, in addition to the 22 that exist currently, but unlike current suffixes, these will be commercial suffixes. Between January and April 2012, companies will be able to apply for individualized suffixes, anything from .mcdonalds to .burgers. The application fee alone is $185,000, and the annual fee is expected to be $25,000.
This change is bound to have a big impact on the web and particularly on online marketing. Although it will take time for Internet-users to get used to these suffixes, it’s a marketing dream for major companies. It boosts name recognition and enhances companies’ potential to carve out their little corner of the web.
ICANN isn’t clear yet on how domain sales for these suffixes will work, but imagine if Coke could sell yourname.coke to their fans. Fantastic profits, plus awesome marketing from everyone who visits kirstie.coke and suddenly starts craving a cold soft drink. The publicity is also a great reason for companies to offer away free domains on their suffix, hopefully employing some neat social media-based contests to do so. Or what if you’re the company that manages to secure .food? You’d have other companies clamoring to purchase a domain on your suffix.
The change will also encourage the creation of more microsites and branded websites by major companies, which are often some of the best products of creative marketing strategies. For example, Mountain Dew’s record label Green Label Sound could use the domain greenlabelsound.mountaindew to increase the brand’s presence. Why not create a bunch of interesting non-blatantly-commercial microsites/branded websites and have the URLs include your company’s name?
What does this mean for the democratic nature of the web, though? One of the strengths of social media marketing is that it makes industries more democratic by allowing small companies to utilize marketing without a huge budget. A small company that’s creative enough to run an incredibly popular Twitter account can now compete with a company that has millions to spend on a flashy television ad, giving those smaller, more creative companies the power to expand and thrive. ICANN’s $185,000 + $25,000/year cost will limit the new suffixes to major companies with big budgets, negating the democracy that social media otherwise brings to marketing. A bigger budget always means more marketing power, but this places a clearer division between the haves and the have-nots.
On a brighter note, this new suffix option will hopefully be a reminder to executives who aren’t yet quite on board with online marketing and social media of how much potential these channels have.
Once these new suffixes start rolling out, it’ll be interesting to see how they’re used and how they affect social media. Online marketing is always changing, so let’s just hope ICANN’s announcement will be a change for the better.
Could you see yourself or your company purchasing one of these suffixes? How do you think they’ll shape the Internet in the near future?