It’s official: Change will happen to the Web

By | June 28, 2008

It’s official, and the ICANN board has voted in favor for the opening up of a whole new slew of domain name extensions that could in theory, have a major impact on the World Wide Web in the coming future. The board also voted for the allowance of non-English TLDs to be formed. In theory, ANY individual can have their own TLD, as long as they can show a “business plan and technical capacity”.

It seemed there would be no stopping ICANN from going ahead with this decision, as it seems it has been ICANN’s plan all along from the very start of its inception, to open up the Web to all kinds of TLD extensions. But, as I remarked in my previous post regarding this, all I can see is the dilution of the existing TLDs, and it may even impact the old and venerable extension, .COM down the road.

It will not be now, it will not be next year (when the first extensions under this plan are expected to be announced), and it probably won’t happen for the next few years, but the impact will be felt when a new generation of Web users who have not been steeped in the .com tradition, and see nothing wrong with any domain extension fill in and replace the current base of Web users (who “grew up” with .com).

Although there are people who still insist that .com will not be affected, and they base that assumption on the past performance of .info/.biz (which has not yet gained a large public mindshare even after years of existence), no one in their right mind would still hold fast to the notion of .com being the king of TLDs forever.

The big loser would be the domain industry in general. I still believe this will affect the domain industry, because it will slowly lead to devaluation of many extensions, especially those that are not so well known. Hard hit would probably be .mobi and to think that not too long ago, premium .mobi domains were pretty pricey. Compare that with a .com like Wine.com which sold for nearly $3 million and make your predictions on how much it would be worth a few years from now, especially if a rival extension like .wine were to come into existence. Will the current owners of premium .com band together and fight any new rival extensions? A storm is brewing.

Some jest that investing in TLDs is going to be the next trend. Would there be a mad scramble for TLDs instead of domain names in future? Not that it would come cheap, since the price to form just one extension for a (popular) keyword could even end up being $1 million or more if it goes into an auction process. The major beneficiary to an influx of domain extensions would of course be ICANN, who stands to gain a great deal for every new TLD approved. And the gatekeepers would be the search engines, who can determine if a new TLD is worth giving a rank or not. Would Google still give priority to the established extensions? It won’t be wrong to think even Google will face major headaches in future, no thanks to ICANN.

Maybe I’m wrong, but just like people have largely rejected Windows Vista in favor of the old Windows XP, to the point of even influencing Microsoft’s plans, so end user trends will determine the future of ICANN’s decision, and whether the decision was wrong or right.

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