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The six most important questions about new top level domains

neon 145090 1280When can I secure one of the new domain names? The first gTLDs will begin to launch this summer with the others soon to follow.  If you want to obtain domain names in these new top level domains, a few important steps will be needed in the next six months.

 What domain names do you want?  The first and most important question is determining which domain names you might want.  With more than one hundred Internationalized Domain Names launching soon and 900+ new generic top level domains ranging from .inc, .llc, .money, .app, .art to .mom, .news, .tennis and everything in between soon to fllow, the possibilities are almost endless.  But which ones make sense for your business?  And, how many of your current domain names do you want to own each of these new domains?  To determine which names you want,  you have to begin with the end in mind.  What’s the purpose in acquiring the domain name?  Is it to actually move or just redirect your current domain name?  Are you looking to improve your search results or create a new strategy in how you use your domain name?  Will it tie to your social media or mobile strategy?  Once you understand your goal, then you need to segment the 1000+ options and prioritize which ones are most important to your business so you can build your budget and then build a timeline to secure these new domains. 

 How much will it cost?  The cost of each new domain will depend upon the owner of the top level domain.  While there are a handful of big registry operators applying for new gTLDs, each top level domain can set its own pricing.  So, top level domains in high demand may cost more than those in less demand.  While market prices tend to be in the $15 - $100 a year range right now, this could change as supply and demand changes in internet real estate.  This is where the strategy comes in.  If you don’t know how the domain fits into your strategy, it’s hard to budget for it.  And, because you’ll need to assess each top level domain from a pricing perspective, it will be difficult to build a budget and return on investment model without understanding the strategic value proposition for yourself.  You’ll want to particularly pay attention to some of the really big registry operators.  For example, Google is planning to launch a large number of top level domains and there may be certain advantages to moving your domain into their top level domains.  Likewise, a few big companies you may not have heard of will be launching top level domains and some will likely be better than others at marketing their new top level domains.  

 How do I go about it?  Once you know what you want, it’s important to develop a timeline of when the top level domains you want will become available.  All top level domains will be governed by the ICANN procedures set out in the Applicant Guidebook, which created the new gTLD program.  Accordingly, they will be required to offer Sunrise periods for registered trademark owners to secure their domain names first.  Then, it will open up to the general marketplace.  You’ll be able to use the registrars you typically use for most of the top level domains and acquire it similarly to how you acquire domains now through the registrars. 

 How do I participate in Sunrise and Landrush?  If you have a registered trademark for the domain name you want, you will want to participate in the Trademark Clearinghouse.  You can find more information at trademark-clearinghouse.com, but essentially, you need to register your trademark in their database and pay a fee ranging from $95 – 150 per trademark.  Once your trademark is verified, then you will have the opportunity to participate in the Sunrise period offered.  But, you need to have your trademarks before the Sunrise period.  So, if you are interested in one of the internationalized domain names, you need to get your trademarks in now as those Sunrise periods will likely begin this summer.  Once Sunrise periods are open, the top level domain operators will offer a Landrush period and begin opening it up to the public for sale. 

 When will search engines change?  While this is a big question and only those running the search engines know for sure, in all likelihood, the big search engines will adjust their algorithms to factor in the top level domain.  Much debate will follow for sure about the impact, but since the biggest search company in the world, Google, has applied for 101 top level domains , there’s a good chance search is going to change.  Bing and Yahoo! also applied for their own top level domains.  So the big question is not whether search will change, it will.  The important question is will the top level domain have greater weight than .com?  It may not in the short time, but likely will in the long-term.  That’s why acquiring internet real estate you want now is so critical.  

 With the launch of the first new gTLDs just a few months away, the time is now to build your acquisition plan.  It’s not often you have notice that the entire internet is about to expand dramatically.   Taking a wait and see approach may lead to disappointment and frustration if you later found you missed out on a Sunrise or Landrush period.  If you don’t act and someone else gets the domain names you want, how will you explain that to your CEO? 

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