Dot-com at 30: will the world’s best-known web domain soon be obsolete?
Source: The Telegraph, March 15, 2015. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/internet/11470195/Dot-com-at-30-will-the-worlds-best-known-web-domain-soon-be-obsolete.html
The world’s most recognised web address is celebrating its 30th anniversary, but how much longer will it be able to retain its dominance?
Dot-com is the world’s most recognised web suffix, with over 115 million dot-com domains registered worldwide, representing about 42 per cent of all web addresses. But 30 years after its inception, many people are questioning whether it can continue to retain its dominance.
Originally launched by the US Department of Defence – in the same year as Live Aid and the release of the first Back to the Future film – dot-com was originally intended as an internet designation for “commercial entities”.
Technology company Symbolics registered the first dot-com domain name, symbolics.com, on 15 March 1985. The domain was purchased by XF.com in 2009, and remains the oldest registered dot-com domain on the Internet.
Dot-com got off to a relatively slow start, with only a handful of companies initially registering a domain. The first to get involved were largely technology companies, and included the likes of Intel and Siemens through the mid-to-late 1980’s.
By 1997, however, the millionth dot-com domain name had been registered, and the internet boom was well underway. The association with commercial entities was lost when .com, .org and .net were opened for unrestricted registration the mid-1990s.
Meanwhile, the internet had rapidly evolved from an unknown phenomenon used primarily by academics and researchers to a global communication, commerce and information-sharing channel that few could imagine life without.
Today, dot-com websites are accessed trillions of times each day. Millions of entrepreneurs have built their businesses online with dot-com, and the biggest names in business have branded their companies with dot-com addresses. Some believe that dot-com is now almost synonymous with the internet.
“Dot-com is more than just an address. It’s a globally recognised and respected brand itself that nearly every major global brand, including 100 per cent of the Fortune 500, has entrusted with their online presence,” said Jim Bidzos, executive chairman, president and CEO at Verisign, the authoritative registry operator of dot-com.
However, with over 115 million dot-com domains already taken by existing websites or investors, it can be a challenge for consumers and businesses to acquire the dot-com domain name of their choice, unless they have very deep pockets.
One tactic that businesses use to get around this is by combining the dot-com suffix with a national country code, such as avon.uk.com or activia.us.com – although some view this as an inelegant solution.
In response to the issue of availability, the internet industry regulator ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is in the process of reorganising the internet through the introduction of more than a thousand new web address endings, known as Top-Level Domains (TLDs).
For example, businesses in the food and drink industry, can now acquire their own dot-bar and dot-rest domains, whilst those in the design industry will soon be able to purchase a dot-design domain.
Some of these new TLDs also bring additional features, such as the forthcoming dot-tickets top level domain, which will provide consumers with a guarantee that they are buying real tickets from an authorised source.
The aim of releasing these new TLDs is not just to free up more space on the internet, but to encourage greater competition and consumer choice. In some cases, high stakes bidding wars have broken out over specific TLDs. The dot-tech domain, for example, sold for $6.8 million in September 2014.
Although the adoption of these new domains is still in its infancy, the numbers are rising and are anticipated to increase as awareness of new TLDs continues to spread. Some domain name specialists are now predicting that dot-com could 4 Comments as early as 2020.
“The change occurring to the internet is profound and exciting. It’s like the only beverage available for thirty years was water, and now suddenly there are exotic fruit juices, champagnes and single malts,” said Ben Crawford, chief executive of domain name registry CentralNic.
“Many of the ‘anchor tenants’ of .com are also going out on their own now, not only with their ‘dot-brand’ TLDs like dot-google, dot-youtube and dot-amazon, but also with TLDs like dot-app and dot-buy.”
But Verisign insists that the emergence of new TLDs will not hinder the growth of dot-com. The total number of possible dot-com domain names tallied at over 1098, it said, so there is still plenty of scope for registering original domain names on dot-com.
Mark Weston, partner at law firm Matthew Arnold & Baldwin, said that companies seeking to promote their new enterprise with the perfect domain name need to think commercially and do some due diligence to check whether their chosen domain already exists and whether they have the right to use it.
He also recommends choosing a domain that is short, simple, and easily pronounceable. Domain names with shorter names and better memorability tend may be more valuable simply because they are more likely to attract Internet traffic, he said.
“Domain names remain the key links between the online and offline worlds even 30 years on. As manifestations of brands and arguably a new type of intellectual property, the value of the right domain name is indisputable and key for the protection and exploitation of your brand.”