Brands could take advantage of top-level domains, argues registry operator

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Roland LaPlante, CMO at domain registry operator, Afilias, on the likely benefits of new dot brand domains

The beginning of the year saw the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Number (ICANN) open the doors to a dot brand new world: a world where, for the first time, businesses could apply to see their names on the right side of the dot in web addresses.

Imagine, for example, “.pringles” instead of “pringles.com”. The media hype behind the news was representative of how important a change this is in the history of the internet. Businesses will be able to manage their own top-level domain (TLD), giving them more control than ever before over their online presence. We’re likely to see the first domains go live early in 2013.

While the benefits of dot brand are not relevant to all businesses, there are numerous consumer-facing brands that could readily take advantage of a dot brand extension. For these companies, a dot brand domain strengthens online identity, opens new possibilities for customer engagement and affirms brand security by decreasing the likelihood of cybersquatters and online fraudsters. 

In terms of consumer engagement, the new TLDs allow web addresses to become more memorable, practical and shareable for the customer and also offer great promotional benefits to businesses. For example, consumers often trawl a website to find a particular promotion but now there is the possibility of “newpromotion.pringles”, making the consumer’s online search easier and more intuitive. 

Aside from branding benefits, dot drand offers security for industries such as pharmaceuticals and luxury retail, both of which are plagued by counterfeiting.

Just as consumers trust the brand when buying in store, this trust can finally be transferred to the virtual space because consumers know they are purchasing from a legitimate source.

Take, for example, a brand like Rolex, notorious for being counterfeited and sold online. With the advent of the new TLDs, “.Rolex” could remove the headache for consumers and business alike in response to fake watches being bought on the web.  This is because Rolex itself – as a registry – can exercise 100% control over who can use a .Rolex site and how they can use it.

The application process for dot brands involves 50 questions, including 22 of a highly technical nature. Because of this, applicants will be unlikely to turn around their applications over night. If a brand wishes to apply for their own TLD extension, they should make their decision  soon so they have time to secure “buy in” from their business colleagues.

It will also give the time to secure the support of a global registry services provider to help convince ICANN the extension will be properly managed from a technical standpoint, without jeopardising the security and stability of the Internet.   

Although dot brand may not be for everyone, brands that decide not to apply may face an indeterminate period of disadvantage against competitors who do decide to meet this deadline – especially when you consider the last application window for new TLDs was seven years ago. With this in mind, it is strongly advisable to start the application process now to ensure the right technical capabilities and support are in place. 

Registrations of interest are required to be submitted by 31 March 2012. Businesses should note the 12 April 2012 date bandied around the internet is  a false friend; this is the final deadline for companies that have submitted the bare minimum of the application by the 31 March 2012 – a date after which newcomers will not be able to join the dot brand party. 

In the meantime, the business community waits to see which companies have applied for their own TLD – something we will find out from ICANN sometime in May 2012.