The internet—and the domain name system (DNS) in particular—is currently undergoing one of its biggest upheavals since the early 80s. Many readers are probably aware of some of these changes, but in this post I’m going to delve a little deeper into what’s new and what you need to know.
You’ll soon have clients coming to you asking about these new names, or perhaps colleagues in marketing or product development that are looking for a new domain for a product launch.
So, read on for the crash course!
A Little Background
The organization ICANN is responsible for the worldwide DNS system. They have undertaken a program to open up the system to allow a bigger variety of domain name suffixes to be used. It’s not all just about new suffixes in English; many of the new domain names are centered around other languages and character sets—think Chinese or Arabic.
Some Quick Terminology
Let’s get a bit of terminology out of the way:
- The www is the host name
- WordPress is the domain
- Com is suffix or top level domain
So most of what is changing now is, the last part, the .com.
You’ll become familiar with many of these as you use them more frequetly: .com, .net, or .org–these are called generic top level domains (gTLD). There are also country code top level domains (ccTLD) like .au, .uk, or .nz.
Like many parts of the tech world, the domain name industry likes to use a good acronym!
How Many New Names Are Coming?
It’s taken a number of years to get to this point, but, before the end of 2014, there will be lot more options when it comes to registering a new domain name. Early in the process, ICANN announced that it had around 1900 applications from interested parties wanting to open a new gTLD.
Different Uses and Rules
Broadly speaking, there are two types of new gTLDs–open and closed.
Open ones are those that will be open for registration to the greater community; some examples of this type will be .photo, .berlin, and .guitar. Closed domains are those that are used solely for a specific organization or company, examples like .pwc .nike, or .google.
Until now, there were relatively few domain registry operators, you may have heard of companies like Verisign or Affilies (they run the .com and .info registries). Now, this is changing as many others enter the market, with companies like Google coming to play—they applied for over 100 names themselves!
Not all are tech companies that you’ll be familiar with, some are smaller players in the domain name industry wanting to make a name out of a new registry. With as many new ideas on business models as there were applications, the wild west of internet real estate is alive and well!
Sunrise, Pre-orders, Land Rush, and Open Registration
There is a particular process that is followed for the start of a new gTLD. Each process can be a little different, but let’s cover some of the common jargon.
A sunrise period is held first, and allows owners of trademarks to register in that specific name space. One of the most talked about parts of the new system is the robust process that allows owners of trademarks to protect themselves.
The pre order phase is something that is a little more troublesome—I’m sure you get the basic premise of what this is about. You’re able to request a certain domain name with a provider, and when the land rush phase begins they will attempt to get that name for you.
There may be other people that have also requested the same domain name in the pre-order stage, so it really is up to the provider to do the best on your behalf. When the land rush stage begins, all the domains that have been pre ordered will be pushed into the registry as fast as they can.
In a previous life, I did this kind of work, and it can be a very exciting time. It’s a matter of tuning your registrar system so that it can push the domains in and register them as quickly as possible.
From the buyers’ perspective, you need to be a little picky with who you select to pre-order your domain with. Make sure they are actually a registrar for the new domain name space because many aren’t and are actually working through another company. It is best to deal direct!
So, then comes the day when the registry is open and they will conduct the land rush. Commonly starting registrations at a predetermined time, all of the registrars will connect and attempt to register all pre ordered domains.
Once this is over, the domain is then said to be in open registration. You then visit a registrar’s web site, see if your desired name is available, and register it.
A Look Forward Into the Future
It will take some time to adjust, and for the greater internet to begin to use these new names. Over time, you’ll start to see advertisements sporting a new domain, perhaps fender.guitar, JoJos.restaurant, or taxi.berlin.
Google, and other search engines, will have to adapt to these new domain names as well. For example, it will be interesting to see how they adjust to a website that is registered within a city domain. Imagine a search like: “fish and chips in central London.” Will extra weight be given to a website like TheSeafoodSpot.london?
Further Reading to Learn a Little More
WhatDomain.org is a good place to start. It’s operated by a group of leading players in the domain industry and aims to educate about these changes.
Then, stop by some of the bigger domain registrars to learn how they’re implementing the new domains. Here are three examples:
What Are Your Thoughts?
Perhaps you’ve already registered some new domain names, or, this might all be news to you. Regardless, tell us what you think about this shake up.
If you have a favorite registrar that you know works with these new domain names, share that with us too!
TheDMA.com.au, an Australian based WordPress development company and HelpForWP.com a WordPress plugin author. You can find Peter Shilling on Twitter @PShilling.