Until recently, there have been only a small number of domain extensions available, with the most popular ones including ‘.com’, or ‘.co.uk’. The limited number of possibilities meant that prime domain addresses were fiercely fought over, with the market becoming increasingly saturated as rising numbers of brands looked to establish an online presence.
Over the past year, the internet has been undergoing one of the greatest changes in its history. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) began its roll-out of hundreds of new top level domain (gTLD) names, and as a result, the small the small pool of traditional .com and .co.uk domain extensions have become far more diverse. We’re now seeing extensions that are brand-specific (.Nike), geographic (.London), and even foreign-scripted domains.
In total, more than 1200 new web extensions are due to have been launched over next few years, and the influx of new domains presents both significant opportunities and threats to brands. Here are some key insights to help navigate the new domain name programme.
1. Identify which domains are being released, and when
It’s important for marketers to be aware of the different types of domains that are being released, and how each type could affect their brand. There are five main categories: internationalised domain names, where the domain suffix is foreign-scripted; brand-specific domains, where brands register a whole suffix; geographical domains, such as the recently-launched .LONDON; sector-focused, such as .SHOP or .LUXURY; all-purpose domains, such as .World and .LINK; generic domains, such as .CLUB and .COOL.
Businesses will need to have an idea of when each domain is being released in order to begin the registration process. Here is a calendar that maps out the confirmed timescales for all of the new upcoming domains.
2. Identify the opportunities
Brands can use the new domain addresses to increase command of their online presence, and better control their corporate image. A clothes retailer could utilise the .SHOP, .LUXURY or .FASHION domains, for example, to help consumers associate the brand with a specific area of expertise, which has a valuable effect on revenue.
The new domains allow brands to create striking and memorable domain addresses, and demonstrate high levels of consumer trust. A business could perhaps utilise the .TRUST suffix to further verify the brand’s identity online.
The location and language-focused domains (such as .LONDON) help brands to appeal to a target audience, and allow visitors to know what the site is likely to deliver.
3. Identify the threats
Protecting a brand’s identity and trademark should be of uppermost importance. The new domain programme presents three main areas of threat that need to be negated: brand damage, fraud and counterfeiting. All three threats below pose significant damage to a business’ reputation online, so brands need to be vigilant.
4. Protect your brand
Brands need to ensure they have a complete overview of how their name is registered and used online. The first step is to register their trademark in the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH). Set up by ICANN, this is a single database of registered trademarks that offers protective mechanisms tailored to trademark holders.
Registering your brand has two distinct advantages. You will have ‘first dibs’ on registering new domains related to your trademark, before the domain registration process opens up to the general public. This significantly minimises the chances of cyber squatting, where third parties look to exploit your brand name, or masquerade as you online. Secondly, having registered in the TMCH, brands are notified if anyone else attempts to register a domain using your trademark. You will then have the opportunity to take swift and decisive action if there is a breach of trademark ownership.
The new domain programme is expanding the internet significantly, and the opportunities for businesses to bolster their online offerings are numerous. That said, there are pitfalls and threats that can prove costly for brands to correct, and they need to be aware of the protective mechanisms that are in place to prevent damage to business’ trademarks and reputations.
Sourced from Jan Corstens, Trademark Clearinghouse