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Icann Web Domain GTLD

Personalised branded domains and a potential challenge to social media: can brands capitalise on new ICANN web domains?

By Angela Haggerty, Reporter

November 20, 2013 | 4 min read

Brands hoping to capitalise on branded web domains following confirmation that .London will roll out next year will need to invest in significant marketing campaigns to pull users in, according to managing director of digital marketing at Jaywing, Brian Taylor.

Release: ICANN will allocate 1,400 new domains next year

The allocation of the .London domain suffix by ICANN created a fresh buzz in the industry, with a survey carried out by Afilias at the recent Digital Marketing and gTLD Strategy Congress in London suggesting that domain applicants and industry experts even believe it could significantly change digital marketing. But according to Taylor, the hype may not live up to expectations.

“There is a lot of hype about the .London domain suffix, however, given recent attempts by Amazon to introduce .amazon as its web domain and Google to operate dotless domains haven't, thus far, been tremendously successful, .London is unlikely to see immediate success either,” said Taylor.

“There is a customary practice in place for users; they expect the suffix in the form .com or in the UK. Other suffixes in comparison are untested and unfamiliar, and will require significant marketing campaigns to raise awareness in order for users to engage with and trust them.

“Users will always take the easiest path to find what they are searching for and .London is not currently the most convenient route.”

When the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) decided to open up the web to new gTLDs, it received nearly 2,000 requests – each costing £115,000 - from companies, brands and organisations trying to secure related domains. By next year, ICANN will have allocated 1,400 new domains - a significant addition to the existing 22 in use - representing a change so substantial that it has been described by a senior ICANN official as “the biggest change to the internet since its inception”.

Brands such as Amazon, Google and Nike were quick to submit applications to ICANN, but it was reported in July of this year that ICANN would not grant Amazon the domain, thought to be as a result of the Amazon being a geographical location as well as a brand name.

The rush by brands and companies to secure domains has led to questions about how they will be able to maximise use of them.

According to the Afilias survey, a number of respondents believed that branded gTLDs could become more effective in engaging customers online than social networks, while some even thought they could lead to a reduced reliance on social media marketing by creating a personalised experience for consumers – ie. or – and encouraging social interaction directly from the home of the brand.

But while Nike has applied for a domain, an official told The Drum that the brand did not see the prospect as an opportunity to reduce reliance on social.

According to Taylor, the question of how new domains will be listed by search engines must also be taken into consideration by brands planning ahead for any changes.

“Currently, top-level domains are used by search engines to determine which location is most relevant for sites in their results,” he said. “It is not known at the moment how search engines would rank. .London versus for a UK resident, though it can be assumed that if a user is in London, it might appear higher, even though it may not actually be more relevant to the search.

“So in my view, if a brand already owns .com or, .London should currently only be purchased as a protection measure to stop squatting, rather than as a primary domain.”

In addition to .London, Nominet has announced that the shortened .uk domain will be available from summer 2014.

Icann Web Domain GTLD

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