New rules look set to change website domain names forever. This week, Icann, the governing body for website domains and addresses, issued announcements confirming that the current 22 standard domain endings will be signficantly extended, allowing website addresses to finish with almost any word, in any language. Concerns had been raised earlier in the year regarding the 'running out' of addresses. This move looks set to remove the problem.
In addition to the 22 current domain endings, such as .net, or .com, there are around 250 country level domain names - e.g. .uk. The opportunity to create new domains, such as .London, or .Apple, will require companies to adhere to high standards. Those registering new domains must respond to around 50 questions covering everything from intellectual property rights to in house IT capability. Then, there is the price tag. Applications for a domain name must be accompanied by a hefty $185, 000 fee, which inevitably will put off many small businesses and brands.
However, for us, the news could signal yet further segmentation in the digital space. Large organisations, able to pay the price, may create their own domain names, enabling smaller 'official retailers' or distributors of products and services to align themselves more effectively to bigger brands. Therefore, a domain name could become confirmation of a certain standard of product or service. In the future, brands may choose to link their reputation to particular cities or locations, for example, high end fashion houses with .Paris. The move could undoubtedly create its fair share of confusion but it may also help to reinforce traditional preconceptions, and an almost tribal segmentation effect for brands and businesses.
Applications for new domains can be made from 12th January 2012 onwards, with new domains expected to start emerging later in the year.