What you should know about those new dot-whatever addresses

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You’ll be hearing lots of news today about how domain names are going to be changing. If this is news to you, pause before deciding the coverage has anything to do with the reality of what today’s news actually is.

Simply put, the domain name “governing body” Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) — think, International Olympic Committee (IOC) or Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) — voted today (after years of debate) to allow the creation of a flood of new “Top-Level Domains” (TLDs) like “.com” or “.org”. The news you’ll be reading about is how companies will buy up “.coke” and “.apple”.

Before you start thinking you should grab your brand name, note the fine print: They’re not selling “$9.99 domains,” they are selling the rights to establish TLDs — technically speaking, the right to administer that TLD. To apply to be such an administrator, will cost a company $185,000. Oh, and you may be turned down. Oh, and did I mention $25,000 a year after that?

For brands like .coke, this will be like buying a domain name. However, the real action to watch — and the real money-maker for ICANN — will be the gold-rush for generic domains like .music.

Global brands will have no trouble securing their TLDs — and they won’t be selling $9.99 domain names ending in .coke.

But that will be the ambition of the types of companies and, well, “groups” that will go after the .music TLDs. The activity among these types will be interesting (and, ultimately, sad) developments in the coming months to watch unfold.

For the record (and to have something to point back to one day), here’s a quote from an article about ICANN’s action:

“Steve Crocker, ICANN Board Member, in his remarks during the board session said: “Many people will write positive and negative things, I’m sure. I hope that this is studied in business schools going forward and analyzed in many ways. And we’ll look back and try to understand what the results were compared to what we expected. And I think that’s a very healthy process. But having been involved in a series of key decisions along way from the very beginning, I fully understand that trying to do it exactly right and particularly trying to hold things up to get things exactly right, is exactly the wrong thing to do.”

Well, I admire his honesty. However, what ICANN did is, no doubt, good for ICANN — no matter whether it’s right or wrong; most notably in the revenues that will flood into ICANN during the window of application. ICANN predicts up to 1,000 TLDs will be sold, so let’s see: 1,000 x 185,000 … and if they’re saying 1,000, I think that’s extremely low — just think of how many cities in the world (.nashville) there are.

What will all this mean in the end? Here are my predictions:

Giant companies with massive budgets will buy and control their brand TLD — but they aren’t likely to change their maketing focus from apple.com to apple.apple. Maybe “.ipad” or “.mac” may work for some product branding, but there will be lots of confusion when users start typing in .ipad.com instead of ipad.ipad.

Smaller companies with less money to spend will also invest $185,000 they hope their accountants can figure out a way to amortize over the next 30 years. They should, however, spend that money on current marketing activities, however, but that’s just my opinion.

The wildcard I see are those companies (either existing players like GoDaddy, VC-backed startups, or speculators) who go after every profession: .vetinarian, .doctor, .lawyer, and city .nashville, with the belief that a pent-up demand for such TLDs exist.

Maybe there is. But there sure wasn’t for .biz or .info when they came along.

And will users really remember all those different TLDs or just try .com and then get frustrated when it doesn’t work?

Bottomline: If you’re not in the Domain Registration business with millions of dollars to gamble, this is not going to be a game you want to play.

Longterm: There are lots of toll-free “area-codes” out there, but which three numbers would you prefer your company to have? Answer: the three numbers customers will first try: 800.