The Death of Dot Com?

| By: Michael Harvey

What gTLD Means for Dot Shopping, Brand Identity and Online Retail

Last month, Amazon took a rare loss. No, revenues weren’t down, but when the number one online retailer in the world loses anything it makes news. In this case, a committee overseeing the registration of new generic top level domains (gTLD) ruled that Amazon should not be allowed to register “.amazon.”

In 2011, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted to end restrictions for new gTLDs to only traditional domains like dot-com, dot-org and dot-net. Suddenly, the possibilities for what would be on the back-end of a web address were endless (think www.google.search, www.espn.sports and www.walmart.shop). Even more intriguing is the possibility of having your own brand name as a gTLD.

Which brings us back to Amazon. That’s exactly what the ecommerce giant wants to do with dot-amazon. But the company has met heavy resistance from South American countries who want to make sure that the domain is preserved for potential use by entities associated with the actual Amazon River. While Amazon still has another chance to get the domain, no one outside of its Seattle offices is likely to cry if it is denied.

But the process Amazon is going through does bring up a lot of questions about how other ecommerce companies should view and treat new gTLDs. While it will take years for these domains to be registered, implemented and gain traction, it’s still something that everyone with a website should at least be thinking about and following closely. Here are a few questions online retailers might be asking:

Is this the death of dot-com?
In the 90’s when the internet exploded, having a dot-com website meant something. Think of all the internet companies who actually put “dot-com” in their corporate name. Today, almost everyone has a website–from major retailers to the local deli down the street. The proliferation of convoluted or unpronounceable domain names that has been forced on the business world as companies struggle to claim unused dot-com URLs may finally ease. Furthermore, the new gTLDs may actually, once again, provide retailers with a branding differentiator. A retailer like our client Nicole Miller might consider www.nicolemiller.fashion while someone like Ikea could go with www.ikea.furniture. The number of options with this model are far greater and ultimately may make anyone operating on the old dot-com domain seem out of touch.

Should I panic about protecting my brand’s gTLD?
No, not at this point.  First of all, the idea of web-squatters scooping up an entire domain is unlikely because of the high cost to register. Any company will have to pay $185,000 to have a new domain registered. Secondly, while the process is moving forward for certain domains, ICANN is taking it slowly and scrutinizing applications.  Additionally, the organization is implementing a number of systems to ensure that companies can protect their brand including a Trademark Clearinghouse that will allow anyone with a trademark on a name to submit it to a centralized system. If anyone tries to register that trademark as a domain, the trademark holder must be notified and have an opportunity to contest the registration. However, you should absolutely keep an eye on gTLDs that might be relevant for your particular business. Dot-shop, when it is released into the wild, is going to have every online retailer scrambling for the iterations most relevant to them: your_name.shop, shoes.shop and so forth. Also, if you are a shoe retailer, say, dot-shoe will be an important gTLD for you to prospect if and when it becomes available.

What does this mean for my online business?
Unless your brand is so prominent and yet general—like Amazon, the name of both a giant retailer and a giant river—you should not be undertaking an effort to get your own brand cleared as a gTLD. Whatever new gTLDs are created in the future, ecommerce merchants will still be judged on the same things they always have: the quality of their products, the price of their products, the usability of their site, and the service they offer. Whether you’re at dot-shop or dot-com, you still have to focus on how to cater to your customers and give them the products and experiences they expect.

 

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[rendertool][type_person][prop_name]Michael Harvey[/prop_name] is [prop_job]COO[/prop_job][/type_person] of [type_corp][prop_desc][prop_name][/prop_name], a [prop_loc]New York[/prop_loc] and [prop_loc]Los Angeles[/prop_loc] digital agency that specializes in ecommerce solutions for fashion and lifestyle brands and retailers. [prop_mkffr]From responsive design to systems integration, we deliver award-winning web design, development, strategic consulting and support services for the Magento Enterprise and hybris platforms.[/prop_mkffr][/prop_desc][/type_corp][/rendertool]