Do $185,000 Domain Names make sense?


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Last week I was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal for a piece about the new branded domain names that ICANN announced. Starting in 2012, companies or individuals will be able to apply for custom domain names that instead of ending with ".com" or ".uk" would end with ".brand" like dot pepsi or  dot mountaindew. It'll cost $185,000. Here's my more unfiltered take:

  1. I'm not convinced this is a good decision. Yes, it is a more branded domain name but it causes confusion among consumers. For every brand that forks out the money for a branded domain, there will be two that don't.

  2. The pricing seems atrocious. I'm not sure where ICANN got the $185,000 figure from but it appears that the business community wasn't consulted. $185,000 is a lot of money and ICAAN appears to be trading on the insecurities that digital marketers may have about their brands.

  3. It also seems that ICANN wishes they had benefited more directly from the domain name squatting gold rush of the 1990s and are now trying to make up for it. From a industry standpoint, I don't think it makes sense. And nor does Esther Dyson, former ICANN chairwoman.

  4. Other domain name formats have come and gone in the past but they've failed. Remember dot biz and all those domain names that were actually meant for tiny countries? With dot com and the country domain names we have a standard. It's a vocabulary people are used to.

  5. ICANN is supposed to be in the business of reducing digital confusion and making findability of websites easier. They say this will unleash global imagination.This does the exact opposite. Even Google thinks so.

  6. ICANN seems to have confused the opportunities to have more top level domain names with the specific needs of marketers. I can maybe understand the value in having more top level domain names for generic topics like shoes but pushing brands into that space is a mistake. Read this insightful interview with a former ICAAN Chairman for more.

  7. I can only imagine the copyright and trademark infringement issues that will arise in January. Without clear rules around this, we could have a lot of chaos. 

I think this is a mistake and most importantly, it is guaranteed to cause user confusion. It'll also cause angst among marketers like myself who feel pressure to fork out the money to purchase a domain name. Similar to the whole net neutrality debate, we as an Internet community, are running the risk of enacting laws, policies and guidelines that hurt the Internet rather than help it over the long term.

Update: @38enso said it best in a tweet reply to my post. - Content drives traffic not URL name. That matters the most.


Follow me on Twitter (@shivsingh) for more insights on digital strategy and social media.

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