It will be wonderful for all those companies living in their own little world with their own gTLD. And that’s just it. It will be their own little world, where everyone outside of it struggles to remember the domain extension. The problem with having a domain extension abbreviation of your brand, or one that represents your associated industry, is that it relies on the user to change behavior and make a new association: “What’s their new web thingy again? Oh forget it just go to blahblahblah.com.” Something to think about, huh?
Most folks have never gotten to grips with dot net, let alone dot mobi, dot me, etc. And while I favor domaining on dot net over dot org, no one can escape the prowess of dot com.
The whole new gTLD thing is an ongoing theme on the blog of late, and indeed domaining forums the web over. There is a lot of panic surrounding Google’s purchase of over 100 gTLDs, and how this might completely change the face of domaining. After all, Google controls the ranking of websites and chooses which ones to favor. Or do they?
What seems to have been forgotten amidst all the concern is that we are in a new web era, one that has put the user in the control room. Website visibility is determined by popularity, and popularity determined by social signals, reviews, on-site activity and relevant, natural backlinks. The Google algorithm has changed considerably in the last 2 years, and while the weight applied to an exact match domain may have been devalued, if anything the web has swung back in the favor of the dot com. The reason being that the majority of longstanding, authority sites, with high-level audience/consumer interaction, are on dot com extensions. Google isn’t going to release a load of new gTLDs and give them immediate or even medium term priority in the SERPs because they want to set a trend, prove a point or make good on their investment.
In fact, Google buying these extensions means nothing concrete, at all. Look how many “web changing” projects have been shelved by the search giant in recent years; Google Wave, Google Creator, Google Video, Google Buzz, to name a few. Google is the web, and if others are making big moves, they need to move one bigger to make sure that if there are changes they are poised to react as a market leader. Who knows, Google could shelve the whole new gTLD thing within a couple of years.
What is certain, however, is that any company adopting a new extension will need a bulletproof change over strategy. Changing domain (extension) is a risky business for any website, and takes careful management. There will be an abundance of stray traffic trying to get to its destination, and no doubt the underground web warriors will be looking to take full advantage.
Another certainty is that an increasing number of people are going mobile, and many businesses are using apps over mobile sites on mobile devices. This means no domain required. If the entire web went this way then domaining might die a death, but how likely is that? No more desktop computing? An app for every site? No more web browsers? Not likely at all. You can’t force the consumer hand online, not any more. The user has the whip hand, and the user likes surfing the web. Moreover, when the user guesses an extension they guess dot com.
Diluting the web with the new gTLDs could in fact do domainers a favor. The dot com may naturally be given more credence, and serve as an even more prominent signal of a website’s authority.