Exploring New Domains: ICANN's gTLD Program

August 14, 2018

Exploring New Domains: ICANN's gTLD Program

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit organization responsible for maintaining the global Domain Name System (DNS), is in the middle of rolling out its new gTLD program, which has the potential to reshape how users find information on the internet and how organizations build their identities online.Kevin Kopas, Channel Manager for Radix Registry, stopped by the Codeup classroom to help students better understand the gTLD program and how it may transform the domain industry over the next few years.

What is a domain, anyway?

Domains are identifiers that create spaces of authority within the internet. A domain reflects an Internet Protocol address (IP address), which links to the server where a website is hosted. Domains are organized according to a hierarchical model consisting of top-level, second-level, and lower-level domains.Top-level domains (TLDs) constitute the highest level of domains in the DNS. There are many types of TLDs–including country codes like .us, .uk, and .jp–and Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs), such as .com, .info, .edu, and .org. gTLDs are operated and managed by registries, like Radix.Second and lower-level domains directly follow TLDs and are located to the left of the "." in a domain. For a visual, in the domain "codeup20.wpengine.com," ".com" is the gTLD and "codeup" is the second-level domain. Typically, registries delegate the responsibility of allotting domain names to registrars, such as GoDaddy.

How is the domain industry changing?

Until recently, the list of gTLDs was limited to traditional strings, like the previously-mentioned .com and .net, as well as .gov, .mil, .org. and .edu. Over the years, the number of desirable and available second and third-level domains associated with these gTLDs has become increasingly scarce.To diversify the pool of available domains, ICANN is in the process of introducing 1300+ new gTLDs. These include everything from .baby, .mls, .dot, and .realty, to .sucks, and .buy. Radix has acquired eight new gTLDs, including .space, and .website, and will soon be offering .tech.Registries can apply for a new gTLD through ICANN. In the case that multiple registries apply for the same gTLD, those companies partake in an auction to determine the winner. ICANN runs its own auction to solve these contention sets; however, companies have found ways to resolve these disputes before reaching ICANN through private auctions like Applicant Auction, which have their own rules and regulations. Sometimes companies even negotiate deals on their own instead of conducting a private auction.The winning price for each gTLD varies. Registries often play a high-stakes guessing game where big prices have the potential for big returns. For example, on the low end of the March 2015 ICANN auction , .srl was purchased for $400,000; on the high end, Google purchased .app for $25 million.

What does this mean for the web?

In Kopas’ opinion, slowly but surely, the .coms and .nets of the world will become overpowered by more specific gTLDs. While the impending end of the .com era may be sad for some, this shift also opens up new opportunity for creativity and specificity in a company’s branding and marketing.With a more diverse list of available gTLDS, companies can better align their web presences with their products or services: a beauty salon could use .salon or an independent realtor could use .realtor. On the flip side, users will be able to tailor their searches based on a company's gTLD. This change also has the potential to offer credibility to businesses in certain industries. For example, in order to obtain a .law domain, the applicant must be a licensed practitioner.But will these new gTLDs ever really become the norm? Will Google's $25 million investment in .app produce a sizable ROI? Only time will tell. In order for this shift to happen, consumers must understand the industry and recognize the new variety of available gTLDs. Thanks to Kopas, Codeup students are now "in the know" about the changing domain of domains!For more info on the upcoming gTLD changes, check out ICANN's FAQ page.To hear about how applicants plan to use the new gTLDs, watch ICANN's video series.