Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New TLDs - boon or boondoggle?

When I was reading up about Minds+Machines and what they do, I encountered some articles and blogs complaining that new TLDs are primarily a way to milk money out of trademark owners because they have to defensively register their name in all these new TLDs.  There do seem to be a lot of concerns, and not a clear understanding of its value.

Advertising Age had an article about this that makes it all sounds pretty ugly, and you could find yourself asking "why is ICANN doing this?  It sounds like a mess!"

Antony Van Couvering (yes, we're related), CEO of Minds+Machines, responded to this article in a comment. You can also find his comment in full on the Minds+Machines blog.

His main point is that there are significant benefits to TLDs, that these benefits significantly outweigh the potential costs, and that the marketing/ad industry should look towards how to take advantage of the benefits rather than naysaying and focusing on the costs.

I particularly liked Antony's point that a TLD can be used as a guarantee of quality - it's a brand you control and you can use it as a brand in the real sense of the word:
If BMW had standards for their pre-owned cars (which they do), then they could provide .BMW domain names for dealerships who met their qualifications. BMW = quality; .BMW = dealer you can trust.
It also appears that there has been a pent-up demand for new TLDs that really can't be denied
These new top-level domains are going to happen, because the demand has been simmering for over 10 years for non-Roman-character TLDs for most of the non-English-speaking world, so that people can use the Internet in their own language. Add to this vocal demands for non-brand-related TLDs such as .AFRICA, .EUS for the Basque Country, .NYC for New York City and so on. These are the real demands that are driving this process, and concerns about cost to brand owners, as real as they may be, are not going to stop it. It's true that the new TLDs will cause some headaches for brand owners, although there are workable proposals out there that will allow brand protection across all new TLDs for as little as $125 per brand.
I'm curious what those proposals are, that sounds encouraging.  Antony worked with companies for years as CEO of NameEngine (then acquired by Verisign), helping them establish/protect their brand across domains, so I suspect he knows of what he speaks.

A great conclusion too, that drives the point home 
But to concentrate on the risk and cost when the opportunities are so great strikes me as a great mistake. There is no reason for a company to spend money branding VeriSign (=.com) when they could be branding themselves, even as they claim a permanent part of the Internet at the very top level. Compared to the opportunity, the cost is truly trivial.
 Maybe I should work with Antony to get the .VANCOUVERING TLD :)

1 comment:

Antony said...

If you want to see the plan where trademark owners can protect their names for only $125/yr per brand across all new TLDs, I did a little write-up on it: http://www.mindsandmachines.com/2009/03/a-plan-to-solve-the-trademark-issue-at-icann/