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July 13, 2011

New TLDs, boom or bust?

Starting next year, ICANN is willing to take $185,000 plus $25,000 annual maintenance fee to sell you your very own top-level domain (TLD) to replace the “.com” domain you are now using.

Sure, Ford may be able to purchase the “.truck” domain and then have their very own www.ford.truck URL. But then what?

Google, Bing and Yahoo still convert keyword searches into potential domain targets. They tell searchers where to look for relevant information. And I don’t see that changing just because Ford or GM buy the “.truck” domain. Buying a new top-level domain will not guarantee you a stampede of visitors.

Of course, Microsoft makes the Internet Explorer browser while Google makes the Chrome browser and has a deal with Firefox for built-in web search. So the top three browsers are under the control of the top two search engines. I just don’t see Google and Microsoft suddenly making their search advertising business irrelevant by making these new top-level domains the default go to sites.

Search will remain a viable business. And for search to remain viable, the new TLDs must not come to dominate by default. The search engines control it, and the search engines will not let it happen.

So where’s the boom in new TLDs? Well imagine if you were a large national association, take the American Bar Association, for example. The ABA claims to be the largest association in the world. If I was ABA president, I would be writing that check for $185,000 right now, and I would want to own the TLD “.lawyer” for my association.

Why? Easy, I would give every member a free email address forward like “firstname.lastname@ABA.lawyer” for life. This will greatly reduce the association communications cost because you now have every member’s email address. Then I would offer to sell domains to member law firms so you could have “firstname.lastname@firmname.lawyer” as an email address. This generates income for the association and makes sustaining membership more valuable. The “.lawyer” domain on one’s email address is like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Of course, having the email address of almost every lawyer soon becomes a viable advertising vehicle. The association will be able to sell ads in weekly/monthly email newsletters.

My guess is, come January 2012, you’ll see the American Medical Association, the Auto Dealer’s Association even the AARP or the ASPCA lining up to buy their own top-level domains. I don’t expect Ford to purchase the “.truck” domain, but I’m pretty certain they’ll purchase “.ford” and every Ford dealer will get a new URL. In addition to their “.com” address, not instead of.


Mike Poller runs a Miami, Florida advertising agency involved in Online, social media, radio, TV, print and outdoor.

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