ICANN are getting ever closer to allowing companies to register their own Top Level Domains. They have been planning this, literally, for years and years and at this stage I'm actually a little surprised to see it going ahead.
When the news of ICANN's latest decision was announced last month [see more in articles from Reuters and Advertising Age] we discussed this internally at Distilled, and I made some predictions about what would happen as this goes through. I thought that I'd share these predictions with you, to see which you agree / disagree with, and to hear your own predictions. Plus, in two years time we can come back to this post, and see how wrong I was.
There will be at least one more wobble before custom TLDs goes live, which will lead people to believe that it's not going to happen. (It's still possible that something scuppers it altogether, and we never get to see this happen.)
The first movers will be wealthy groups with a smart marketing person pushing this internally. It will perhaps also include brands who are already a little frivolous with their marketing budget. For example: GoldenPalace will no doubt put in bid for something like .poker and Tribune could be bid for something like .news.
Some aggressively minded SEOs will no doubt shout for people to be buying up exact match TLDs, such as .laptops. Other - more analytical SEOs - will doubt that the TLD will have any benefit, or might want to see if there's any kind of SEO benefit from them. Do search engines trust these TLDs? Will they use the it in determining keyword relevancy?
Some consortia will emerge; for example: a few big film studios might buy .movie to host websites for individual films - http://thematrix.movie , etc. (However, this example won't happen: movie marketers are too fragmented across markets and - for the most part - unorganized)
At first there will be massive user confusion, and there will be lots of videos, infographics etc, for "What are these new TLDs?" and "How to explain the new gTLDs to your Granny" etc. At least one will be published by Distilled.
There will also be reactive marketing campaigns by at least one established TLD. For example: "Dot Net: the trusted top level domain for the internet" or "People only know where to find you, when you're a .org"
A small handful of savvy people will make great money off creating their own domain registrar at .shop or .site or something, at a price point slightly below that of a .com - maybe $5 - $7.
There will be some registrars that are really cheap (in the ~$1 range) and get spammed to death, so no-one (users or search engines) trusts them. There will be at least one expensive registrar (think, ~$1000 / year) - and the domains will come with some inherent trust.
There will be at least a couple of new groups that buy something like .blog or .git and then give it away for free to anyone who wants a domain like http://myproject.git. This might be someone like Matt Mullenweg or Mark Shuttleworth.
OK; these are my predictions. Do you think this will ever happen? Is there anything you anticipate happening that I've not thought about?
And the $185,000 Question: which TLD will you be bidding for?