Ray King, CEO at domain name registry TLDesign, looks at the impact of the new world of web extensions on the design industry
Ray King – CEO at TLDesign
A web address has long been part of any organisation’s identity, becoming all the more poignant as digital engagement becomes more ubiquitous in people’s lives. For design businesses – or indeed any company from any industry – many will have strived to attach their brand name to a .com or .co.uk web extension (more formally known as a top-level domain or TLD).
With many of the best addresses taken, especially as competition for the right .com domain name has grown, alternative options are as follows – choose different words on the left of the dot that don’t match the name of the business or use one of the other generic TLDs that carry less prestige such as .info or .biz.
You may have seen a new system has launched to mitigate the above. The new gTLD programme has been created by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), which has opened up the domain world so that there are no longer a mere handful of generic extensions to choose from such as .com or .net or the country specific domains like .co.uk or .de. Between November 2013 and the end of this year, we are likely to see in excess of 600 new gTLDs launch. In addition, hundreds of businesses have applied to create their own dotBrand extension, such as American Express’ .amex.
“Adoption of huge industry TLDs like .design is all but assured, but those that move first will have a significant leg up on the competition”
Given the media attention surrounding its launch, the extension that is most likely to have caught people’s attention in the UK will have been .London. But beyond this, there are a number of industry-focused extensions that will support specific industries that are better suited to a wider geography. The design world is no different – .design will be opening its doors early this year. As is the case with any of the new extensions launching, businesses with trademarked terms will be able to have the first opportunity to claim .design domain names featuring their intellectual property/brand names during a sunrise period, which will run from February to April. Following on from that, anyone will be able to register .design domain names from later that month.
There are a several striking benefits why design businesses might consider registering a domain name featuring one of these new extensions. First, they may do so for a domain that carries meaning – imagine a business with the brand name ‘Smith & Jones’ that provides support services to the design sector. As the company grows and wants its audience to know the nature of its business, www.smithandmiller.design readily identifies them in a way that www.smithandmiller.com doesn’t.
Second they may want a snappier domain name for marketing. Taking the example above, promoting the website www.smithandmiller.com/design is a bit of a mouthful. The world of new domains makes for much cleaner marketing, such as www.smithandmiller.design.
Third it could be that these new extensions can mark an industry leader. Adoption of huge industry TLDs like .design is all but assured, but those that move first will have a significant leg up on the competition and enjoy the branding benefits of being a first-mover and thought leader.
Lastly, it can offer an alternative to the overcrowded .com space – where .com has become increasingly thought of as a premium domain name it has become a competitive and expensive TLD to engage with. If a brand wants the right .com or .co.uk domain and doesn’t have it already, there’s a good chance it’s taken – what’s more the current owner will expect substantial financial recompense to part ways with it.
The new gTLD programme puts forward other fresh extensions that are more attractive, relatable and affordable. A quick search on Google points to a huge number of potential beneficiaries, for example the lengthy address www.michaelsmithdesign.co.uk could easily be redacted to www.michaelsmith.design.
The gTLD’s arrival is a great step towards giving the design industry its own stamp on the internet and provides businesses with a fresh opportunity to engage in a more personalised way with their customers. Proactivity is key, however, the sooner an enquiry is made as to whether a business can purchase its desired new domain name, the more likely they are to be able to actually keep it out of the hands of competitors.