The coming gTLD explosion (or not)

ICANN, the folks who manage Internet domains, recently decided to open up the generic top-level domain (gTLD) space to anyone who can afford it and can navigate ICANN’s complex approval process.

gTLDs are those domains to the right of the dot in the URL, such as .com and .biz. Currently there are 21 gTLDs. But going forward, there is no limit to the number of gTLDs that can be registered. A company could register one, a city could register one, even an individual.

The media are predicting a bewildering array of new gTLDs in the months ahead.

But I’m not so sure we’ll see such a domain land rush. For starters, the process and costs of getting approval for a new gTLD are going to eliminate only the most passionate (and well-funded) supporters.

In the near future, I do see domains such as .berlin (and other cities) and .sport (and other topical words) emerging.

The big question will be to what extent the corporate world participates in registering gTLDs. Will we see a .coke or .pepsi or .google emerge? Odds are pretty good that we’ll see a .google simply because Google can actually manage its domain fairly well. As for Coke or Pepsi, I’m not so sure. Which leads us to the need for third-party domain service providers who could help companies like Coke and Pepsi register and manage their gTLDs. I sense a nice business opportunity ahead.

The larger issue to emerge out of the recent ICANN meeting is the coming of IDNs, such as domain names in Cyrillic and Chinese. When the leaders of both China and Russia clamor for their own native-language URLs, you can be sure that they will become a reality. This too will be a messy process, but it is safe to see we will see non-Latin URLs in 2009.

Here are two articles that provide a good analysis of ICANN’s recent announcements: InformationWeek and CircleID.