Is Your Business Ready For The Greatest Change To The Internet Since Its Creation?
I recently attended ICANN 46 in Beijing, the 46th international event on the future development and growth of the Internet since ICANN’s creation in 1998.
ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is the steward of the Internet, and ICANN 46 is the 46th episode in evolution of the Internet. Since its inception, ICANN has been developing what is known to those in the know as the ‘new gTLD program’. While we once had .com, .net, .gov and approximately 22 other TLD’s (Top Level Domains) including .com.au, soon we will have approximately 1,950 new ones. Nearly 600 trade mark brands like .nike, .ferarri, .toshiba called bTLDs or Branded Top Level Domains will run as closed operations, meaning that you won’t be able to purchase second level domains from them. Approximately 1,350 generic terms like .app, .church, .love, .pizza and even .sux will be open to the general public, which you can purchase second level domains of e.g pizzahut.pizza.
While in Beijing, apart from the fact that I felt like my nose and mouth were permanently attached to the exhaust of a car, it was abundantly clear to me that 95% of businesses around the world are not even aware of the impending impact of ICANN’s new gTLD program, and the fact that it will potentially have the greatest impact on businesses around the world since the invention of the internet itself.
Nearly 2,000 attendees spent up to 8 days immersing themselves in the creation and development of ICANN policies, and exploring what the new Internet landscape will look like with these new gTLDs. While some were impressed with the turn out, as an Internet strategist I was absolutely gob-smacked that something that will have such a wide and dramatic impact, was largely void of business owners that would be impacted the most. It was clear to me that it was up to companies like SLAM Strategy to see how this new space will evolve, and to help educate businesses on their industry’s need address the coming spectacular change.
Businesses need to make sure RIGHT NOW that they are working on strategies to challenge their competitors who have purchased their own dot trademark. Businesses also need to understand how to take advantage of the opportunities of the new gTLDs that can be purchased propelling them ahead of their competition.
Business owners be warned, once these new gTLDs go live it will hit the world with speed and ferocity. For those in the know it is a gold rush, but the vast majority is going to be like sheep to the slaughter house, blissfully unaware of the impending impact of this new digital landscape.
Being forewarned is being forearmed and there are some serious questions that I want business owners to think about and address. These questions involve both threats and opportunities for businesses. It is vital that they are addressed now.
Let’s say you are a pizza shop or even a chain of pizza shops like Eagle Boys pizza. How do you think your customers would react when they see Pizza Haven (competitor) is promoting themselves as the real deal because they are Pizzahaven.pizza. The thing is, it’s not just a question for Eagle Boys or Pizza Haven, it is a question for every pizza shop owner around the world. The pizza shop owner needs to ask themselves if their customers are thinking, “If the company I am buying the pizza from doesn’t own a .pizza do they really love pizza?” Or on a more subtle level if you don’t even know that Eagle Boys make pizza and you saw www.eagleboys.com.au and you saw www.joes.pizza which one do you think you would pick? Which one tells you what they do? On that note, even if you knew that Eagle Boys sold pizza, which one do you think was REALLY into making pizza? Which one was a part of the .pizza club? While these things may seem subtle, sometimes that is all it takes to turn a customer from A to B.
As someone with a background in marketing, you are always looking for any % advantage you can get. In many cases it is only a 1% or 2% difference, and when you are a big franchise like Eagle Boys, that can represent hundreds of thousands of dollars and potentially an industry game changer.
Now let’s say you are a shoe brand that is well known that competes directly with Nike. How are you going to deal with and address the fact that on the way to work you saw a bus go past saying, “If it doesn’t end in .nike, it’s not us!” How are you going to promote your business as being a leader online if you’re just a “yourshoebrand.com”?
Unfortunately your opportunity to compete has come and gone. The first round window to apply has closed so the best thing you can do is to get your head around what is happening first. While it is widely speculated that ICANN will do a subsequent round it has not been confirmed. Even if it was confirmed it would not start until the current 1,950 applications have all been fully processed. This could take up to 5 years. So what are you going to do to combat this over the next 5 years, do you know?
While it is largely unconfirmed and hotly debated amongst all, it is possible that purchasing of a second level domain name that ends in a keyword such as .pizza could impact on search results. I need to be clear that at this point, according to Matt Cutts from Google (Google’s search algorithm god) it won’t make a difference. Rather, he mentioned that what is always most important in Google’s results is relevancy. However I feel that this is just a way of avoiding the real issue and that is that if you took two websites that were identical in every way, in every respect, including identical content, identical amount of content, identical in every way except for one. If one website was a .com and the other was a .pizza I believe that Google would have to (just by their admission of how their search algorithm works) make the choice to rank the .pizza website ahead of the .com. Why? Well it is just more likely to be more relevant that a .com because .com is anything, while a .pizza is also the search term that the searcher typed in to Google to start with and therefore more likely to be a more relevant search result than the .com domain. There can only be one website in first position in any Google search result. The fact that Google has applied for 101 gTLDs should be a clear enough indication as to how they feel they are going to impact on the internet landscape.
So here are some things for you as the business owner to think about.
1. How much do you know about the new gTLD program?
2. What strategies do you have in place for your competitors that purchased a trademarked gTLD?
3. How are you going to take advantage of the new gTLD opportunities?
4. What opportunities are there with the new gTLDs?
5. What other treats are there from the new gTLDs?
6. Do you need to do anything at all?
Some of the new gTLDs that should get businesses, especially franchisors attention, are words like .pizza, .game, .games, .beauty, .bike, .cafe, .florist, .hair, .law, .makeup, .garden, .organic, .plumbing, .restaurant, .salon and my personal favorite that is nothing to laugh at when you consider who may use it and what they may use it for .sucks.
Nearly every franchise system will be affected by these new gTLDs but how will depend on how much knowledge they have to be able to address this new era of Internet. If you’re not sure about any or all of these questions then you need to get your business up to speed and be prepared. SLAM Strategy is an Internet strategy company able to help businesses to navigate this complex and widely misunderstood industry. Opportunities await you.