The international organization that is in charge of Internet domain names, ICANN, recently decided to widen the scope of available domain suffixes. The suffixes such as “.com”, “.net”, “.info” are not broad enough, ICANN has determined. As such, they have opened the door to “custom” suffixes – meaning you can now create your own “.” – provided you have $185,000 USD to apply and $25,000 USD in annual fees. What’s more, ICANN will be allowing alternative and non-latin alphabets – this item in particular is most troublesome.
Obviously, this loosening of domain names creates numerous opportunities – and numerous issues. The first issue is how will major search engines handle this new influx of domains? It’s a staple of SEO that your domain name, not suffix, carries weight with regards to certain terms you rank for. Major search engines haven’t given much weight to a “.com” or “.net” or “.us” suffix. In the same thread, the major search engines won’t suddenly see a custom domain suffix such as “.travel” and boost its rankings simply because of the suffix. A comprehensive plan to publish fresh, new content is the best way to increase your rankings – not a new domain suffix.
Now, expect large corporations to gobble up their own brands for protection. One would certainly expect to see “.coke”, “.ups”, “.mcdonalds” and more – this will be an Internet gold rush of sorts with who can protect their interests and who can profit from these domains. Alternatively, this brings up legal and ownership rights. What about “.giants” – should that be the MLB San Francisco team, or the NFL New York team? I have a feeling that’s going to be settled in court, numerous times over.
However, the most troublesome aspect to ICANN’s decision is the widening of non-latin alphabets for domain names, such as Chinese, and alternative-latin alphabets such as Russian Cyrilliac. Take this as an example – the domain name “raural.com” appears innocent enough – but converted to Russian Cyrilliac Unicode it becomes “paypal.com”. I think you can see the confusion. Your browser will display “paypal.com”, but you’ll be at “raural.com”. If “raural.com” was a malicious web site, one could even impersonate “paypal.com” prompting for a login and stealing your information. Modern web browsers will likely need some sort of warning or alert to re-inforce that the website you are visiting could be impersonated.
It will be very interesting to see how this shakes out – who has the deep pockets to gobble up these domain suffixes, and ultimately how they will be used.