June 2015

Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLD)

In 2011, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN, the organization that coordinates and manages the Internet’s Domain Names System) approved the launch of the New generic Top-Level Domain program (gTLD). The decision has sparked a lot of discussion (and sometimes even controversy) that has left many laypeople in the dark about what these gTLDs actually are, and what they mean in more practical terms. If you would like to know more about gTLDs, their implications, acceptance and their potential to change the landscape of not only domain names, but the internet as a whole, this article will help you make sense of this often confusing topic.

What are Domain Names and gTLDs?

In order to understand the effect of gTLDs on the internet, we have to take a look at what they actually are, the framework into which they fit, as well as what other Domain Names are and why gTLDs are causing such a hype within the group.

  1. Top Level Domains (TLDs) – This can refer to domains in general, but most often it is used when discussing the most recognized website endings such as .com, .gov, .org, etc.
  2. Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) – These are TLDs that are privately operated and are specific to particular countries. They include website endings such as .au (for Australia), .uk (for the U.K.), .gr (for Greece), and so on.
  3. Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) – These are TLDs that enable the use of scripts from different languages with non-Latin characters (such as Arabic and Mandarin) to be used in website endings, so for example تونسي for Tunisia.
  4. gTLD – These are TLDs that go beyond all the ones mentioned above; they are literally “.anything”! Here are a few examples: .love, .food, .paris, .pets, and so on. These were created to give companies, institutions and communities the opportunity to operate under their chosen domain name, as well as to improve healthy competition and consumer choice. ICANN received over 1300 applications, many of which were for the same extensions.

What Are The Benefits of gTLDs?

Now that we’ve looked at how gTLDs differ from other TLDs, we can get into identifying the benefits of such a system, and how it could forever change the landscape of domain names.

  1. Innovative Marketing Strategy/Business Model: gTLDs offer companies a new way to define their brands and build brand awareness and customer loyalty, as well as offer different services, etc.
  2. Increased Control and Revenues: The parties that own the TLDs decide on how much they charge those registered to their TLDs.
  3. Engage a Community/Geographic Area: gTLDs provide a new way for communities and people geographically connected to rally around the same cause and hold relevant dialogues.

Universal Acceptance?

Many of the current criticisms for gTLDs stem from issues regarding universal acceptance. Universal acceptance is when internet sites and software understand not only the usual TLDs (.com, etc.), but also all the other domains mentioned above. If gTLDs are not universally accepted, this poses significant problems concerning the Search Engine Optimization of the sites, as well as the accessibility that many internet users will have to such domains. Universal acceptability is not only a question of technical compatibility. Even when all technical barriers to successful use and access of gTLDs are removed, and users are able to access gTLDs from any email client, internet browser, or device (smartphones, computers, etc.), universal acceptance is also affected by how accepting the general public is of such changes. Universal acceptance is soon becoming a fact, and you have a role to play in it!

How Many gTLDs Have Been Released So Far?

617 new gTLDs are set to be released between 2013-2015 (many of which have already been released). For a more detailed look about the released and pending gTLDs, visit ICANN’s official site; the site is also a great source of more detailed information on all things gTLD!