Big Changes With Domain Names.
Many of you may have heard about the shake up with the domain names, so I thought I would give you a bit of an overview of what's happening and give you some of our thoughts about what this will mean for the future.
What is a Top Level Domain?
- Protocol: This is so your computer knows how to handle the file
- Sub Domain: Whoever owns the Domain can select what page is loaded depending on what the sub domain name is set to.
- Second Level Domain: At the moment you buy this in conjunction with your Top Level Domain.
- Top Level Domain: This is the bit that is changing. Keep reading because this is what I'm going to be talking about (TLD).
- Domain Name: The Top Level Domain coupled with the Second level domain is what you buy, it then goes into a big long list called a DNS server so anyone making a request to that domain name is sent to your server.
What's happening with the top level domains?
Top Level Domains are normally just the familiar .com .co.uk .org .biz however the change that is happening is soon these will be opened up so companies can buy an ending to use and/or resell.
For example Company A can buy the Top Level Domain "sports". And then sell www.football.sports to company B and www.tennis.sports to company C.
The reason for this change is because we are apparently running out of domain names. Domains are all managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and this is how they are developing the domain system for the future.
This change is called Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLD).
How do you get a Generic Top-Level Domain?
As of January companies can put forwards a request to buy and maintain a top level domain, however it's not like when you buy a regular domain, a top level domain will set you back $185,000 (£120,836) as well as a $25,000 (£16,308) upkeep cost. Companies will also have to put forwards a plan before they can get approval and ICANN will compare the proposals for each company wanting matching top level domains.
A large chunk of the cost will be put aside for the legal battles that will inevitably ensue from the obvious copyright and security issues that come from opening it up.
Any company that buys a gTLD (because no normal individual will be able to afford the cost) can decide what they do with it. Some may want to keep it just for the purpose of branding while others may want to sell domains with their ending. If so they can sell them at whatever cost they like and to whomever they like.
The Problem with generic top level domains.
While I agree that anyone wanting a new domain nowadays either has to buy something very obscure, make up a new word or use several words linked together to try and find something unique. I think that this dramatic change is going to make regulation near impossible and also lead to a huge amount of confusion for users finding and verifying the legitimacy of websites in the future.
The problem comes with knowing who can legitimately regulate and fairly govern a top level domain. If a music publisher like Sony was to buy .music would they equally share the rights to this domain? And even if they do resell the second level domains we will get into the situation where you have to worry about your trademark on every single top level domain.
Someone that owns .company could sell tesco.company to anyone, now I doubt that in a legal battle Tesco would have any trouble showing they are the owner, however Tesco will now have to protect themselves over a huge number of possible domains. In the past many companies have bought their second level domain on all the popular top level domains even if they have no intention of using them just as a way of protecting themselves, but this would be impossible on the new system.
About the only thing I like about this change is companies and countries that legitimately want to get their URLs in their native language will be able to, because these new top level domains will have the ability to use non-English characters in.
Phishing scams are likely to become really hard to detect with gTLD. In the future you could find yourself going to www.barclays.secure only to find that .secure has been bought by a security guard firm that has sold barclays.secure to an unscrupulous individual that it trying to scam bank details from you, I'm sure ICANN have been thinking of measures to avoid this but I think it will be inevitable.
If anything this has only managed to move my focus off of my severe dislike of the fact that America have stolen .com for years. The .com top level domain was intended to be used by commercial for-profit companies while America had .us reserved for them, but this is very rarely used.
Have you ever been to a .mil site? You would think that it is reserved for military use, and it is. but only American military institutes can use it. In the same way we have .gov and .edu in the UK
The future of gTLD
No one can stop ICANN from making the change because they are an independent entity however having them look after the domain names is far better than the US government looking after it like they did before ICANN took over. ICANN have already said that they have put so much research and time into this change that there will be no turning back now, but it does just feel like a money making exercise for them because I think this will leave us with a far more complex and unmanageable system for the future.
Companies with good plans and funding now might not be so powerful in the future and may hold back potentially important gTLDs. Not that I think this will be a huge problem but I can envision companies not being able to look after their TLD, and then they become messy black markets, where anything goes.
It is unavoidable that we will have the same problem that we had many years ago where individuals wanting to make immoral money will quickly buy up domains and then "squat" on them for ages until they find a company desperate to buy them. And this is likely to happen on a gigantic scale where any company name, trademark, product name or popular word is bought for cheap and held onto so others can't use it.
The costs for large and small companies having to do development for these changes could be huge, not to mention any individuals that own a now obsolete domains and will have to pay (maybe vast sums) if they want to keep up.
What is the cost of a Generic Top Level Domain?
As I said above a custom top level domain will cost $185,000 (£120,836) one off, as well as a $25,000 (£16,308) upkeep cost. But this is likely to be insignificant compared to the on-going legal cost, the cost of monitoring it and the infrastructure needed to run it.
Companies wanting one will also be required to verify they are the best company to own it and that they have a legitimate use for it. They will also have to prove that they are able to moderate it.
What does this mean for us?
We are going to hold out and see what happens to top level domains like .shop .cart .sell .buy .store and see how they can best benefit our shops in the long term.
Furthermore, as an internet user you are going to have to keep a more vigilant eye out for website that are not who they say they are.
Read more about getting a domain name on your online shop here.