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Domain expert Karl Volkman on the coming changes

Have you been keeping up with the upcoming sea changes in top-level domain (TLD) names? If you thought that we’d live with .com, .net, with a few .biz thrown in, pay attention. Businesses are about to have a choice of just about anything for the end of their domain name, as long as they are willing to pony up $185,000 for the privilege. Big companies are not sure what they should do, so I decided to speak with domain expert Karl Volkman, the longtime Chief Technology Officer of SRV Network, a Microsoft Gold Certified partner that specializes in Network Design and Implementation, Network Maintenance and Monitoring, Disaster Recovery and Prevention, and IP Telephony. Check out what Karl has to say about this coming sea change in Internet domains. Even if your company would never spend this kind of money, you’ll want to know what the big boys will be doing.

Me: Can you describe the change coming to top level domain names that allows companies to buy their own domain, such as .microsoft or .google?

KV: The Internet addressing scheme consists of IP address numbers like 8.8.8.8 and a descriptive Domain Name Space (DNS) like www.google.com. DNS name are the more readily remembered addresses of Internet users. The last segment of these DNS addresses are the Top Level Domains (TLDs), which comprise the Root Zone where the base name databases reside. There are two types of TLDs, two letter country codes (ccTLDs) like .us and 22 generic codes (gTLDs) like .com, .net, .gov. You can check out the current TLDs, but now ICANN is opening up the gTLDs to be practically anything.

Me: $185,000 is a lot of money. What would make this kind of domain worth it and how does a business justify this kind of expense?

KV: The $185,000 is only the beginning of the cost. To own a gTLD means that you must also create the infrastructure to house the Root Zone for this domain and to make sure that it is highly available. The costs of this technology and manpower is not trivial. A gTLD owner may also want to allow others to register second level domains in their gTLD. For instance, say a company wants to own and run the gTLD of .grass. This company could then sell registrations to others for second level domains, such as toro.grass and scotts.grass. This could be lucrative for the owner of the gTLD, but maintaining the support environment for registering, maintaining, and servicing their clients also is costly. Also, procuring a gTLD is not simply a matter of paying the money. There will be a screening process and a notification process where potential gTLD sales are announced so that any other entity could object.

A business might see this as a money-making opportunity by reselling second level domains, or perhaps they wish to keep the gTLD as their own. Some businesses might see having .google or .microsoft as a positive marketing element, and would gladly pay the price. Many might do it to avoid losing the name to domain name squatters, although the $185,000 and other costs would greatly deter squatters.

Me: I could understand if a company has multiple locations (philadelphia.sears and trenton.sears) but what other uses are there?

KV: The main use would be to get rid of the .com, .net, .biz endings to Universal Resource Locators (URLs). I cannot readily perceive of any other obvious reasons.

Me: Some of my clients are asking if they need to do this as a defensive move. Could another company–a competitor–buy my client’s trademarked name?

KV: As I mentioned earlier, squatters could try to get the name, but squatting would be greatly deterred by the cost and by the open announcement process. I am not a lawyer, but trademark infringement is a definite legal area that might crop up. If somehow these names are protected by trademarks, then a squatter might be even more deterred from grabbing them. It will be interesting to see how trademark laws play out on this international stage.

Me: What happens when two companies might want the same domain name–Delta Airlines and Delta Faucets might both want .delta, right?

KV: Yes, that it is a possibility. The gTLD procurement process allows entities to object and an arbitration process will ensue. I cannot speculate as to the particulars of this process, although if it mimics the trend in United States lawsuits, those with deeper pockets might win out more times.

Me: Given that most people type in company names into a search engine, how important are domain names these days?

KV: That is a great question. Search engines direct the majority of people to websites, so the TLD is not a major issue. I could not tell you if the last Web site I visited was .com or .net as I found it with a Google search. I would see that this change would have a bigger impact on technical people updating DNS software then it will have on the average Web user.
Me: What do you think is the most overlooked aspect of this change to domain names?

KV: The most overlooked aspect of this change is that it is new ground. The final product and impact may look nothing like our speculation. We are definitely focused on the price and the curiosity of seeing .microsoft and .google, but is it all a non-event?

Me: I guess we’ll have to watch it play out to know, Karl. Thanks for helping my readers understand what’s coming down the pike.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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