Yesterday it was announced that The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or Icann has voted to release who new myriad of options for domain names. It means that companies can pay to have their brand as a top level domain. This obviously is an attractive option so expect to see .pepsi trying to outrank .coke and the big internet destinations moving to domains like .apple .google or .bbc.
This option doesn't come cheap and it is being reported that it will cost over £100k for apply for one of these new domains and Icann have stated that a company will have to be able to demonstrate that they have the right of fair usage for this extension. This will doubtlessly open a can of worms in certain areas, expect howls of derision from Newcastle and Leeds when the application for the .utd extension is applied for by a certain Manchester based organisaiton.
At present there is 22 geneic domain extensions avaiable after the industry specific ones were added to the list with the last round of expansions. They are :
.aero : air transport industry
.arpa : special legacy domain for technical use
.asia: Asian websites and organisations
.biz : business (Primarily as alternative/expansion to .com)
.cat : Websites in the Catalan language
.com : companies
.coop : co-operatives
.edu : educational institutions
.gov : government institutions
.info : informational websites
.int : international organisations
.jobs : employment & recruitment websites
.mil : military organisations
.mobi : mobile based sites
.museum : museums
.name : personal names for resumes etc
.net : Orignally networking technologies now has broader use
.org : non-profit organisations
.post : postal services
.pro : professionals
.tel : telecoms
.travel : travel
And these are augmented on a country by country basis with the national domains such as .uk, .de .ie. This new expansion opens up limitless possibilities at a price. The race will now be one to formulate effective switchover policies for big companies so that a switch from www.????.com to www.home.???? doesn't come with a huge plunge in rankings.
Perhaps more likely is that these new domains will exist alongside the old tried and test traditional domain and act as almost a walled garden to keep specific marketing campaigns under the corporate umbrella. Effectively this will mean a much more flexible and customisable alternative to a sub-domain. Our pay per click department might for example dispense with their traditional http://www.hitsearchlimited.com/pay.php page and run their own macro-level "microsite" with the domain http://www.payperclick.hitsearch.
The implmentations of these domain extensions and the sites that organisations develop using them throw up numerous case studies. Some good, some bad and whilst the price tag that comes with one of these suffixes means that the rank and file are excluded from the devlopment it will be extremely interesting to watch how they are implemented.