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Dot com. It's been the most popular top-level domain since the advent of the Internet. Other TLDs, like .net, .org, and country-specific variants like .au, have come along, but none have reached the heights of .com.
But there's been a trend lately. Have you noticed the flood of startups with weird names, like Bit.ly, Write.ly, Twitter's shorter version (t.co), Overstock.com's O.co, which has become its own brand, Last.fm, and Tuition.io? Most of these are country-specific TLDs that have been repurposed (.fm is the Federated States of Micronesia), but this year, hijacked geo-TLDs won't be the only route to a better branding.
That's because, in 2014, ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is set to release a flood of new TLDs, likely in the thousands. Our favorite? .esq, which is owned by a shell company operating off of the Google campus in Mountain View.
Both Sides of the Dot
Some might argue that the new TLDs are overhyped. We'd beg to differ.
While it is true that .com is the TLD for a whopping 52.6 percent of domain names (.net is second, with a puny 5.6 percent), that's because until now, your choices were limited to a handful of generic extensions.
Think yourfirm.lawyer. Or surname.esq. Maybe LAduiDefense.law. Elliot, Smith, & Quentin, LLP can become ESQ.esq.
Google is set to own .channel and .youtube. Instead of this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMfklYjWEow , you'll have lawfirm.youtube/hammerad.
.Blog is also on the big list. Law bloggers rejoice!
Right now, if you want a .com, there are hundreds of registrars you can use. If you want one of the new TLDs, they are owned by private companies, which may or may not allow open registrations, competition amongst registrars, etc. Many of these TLDs could become the Internet equivalent of expensive vanity plates for your car -- great for show, but not worth the cost.
More importantly, if you thought domain name squatting and hijacking was irritating now, with people buying domain names solely for the purpose of holding them hostage, it'll probably get worse when someone can buy infinite variations on your firm or business's name. (You own yourfirm.com? Fine, a disgruntled client just bought yourfirm.esq, where he posts daily rants and lies.)
The bigger your brand, or your clients' brands, the more the new TLDs are going to impact you. And with ICANN rolling out new TLDs gradually (thankfully, with a sunrise period for companies to claim trademarks), this is something you'll have to monitor throughout this year and possibly 2015.
How will you deal with the new TLDs? Mass purchasing? Completely ignoring? Tweet us your thoughts @FindLawLP.