More than 250 million domains were registered worldwide, as of last year, (according to Verisign's latest Domain Name Industry Brief) and this number continues to grow each day.
The increased congestion in the namespace, however, has influenced the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to recognize the need for new domain extensions thus creating more opportunities for businesses and individuals to claim their own piece of the Web.
The new top-level domains (TLDs) represent a paradigm shift in the way businesses are identified online. Websites will be able to communicate their website missions better via different themes such as geographical location (.nyc, .miami, etc.), website type (.shop, .blog, etc.), business sector (.restaurant, .doctor, etc.) or hobby (.football, .dance, etc.). While these new TLDs should improve the likelihood that businesses will acquire their desired domains on the crowded Internet, implementing them into a brand strategy will also contribute to a safer and more secure Internet.
Cybercriminal abuse cases increase every year. In fact, Google discovered that an average of 9,500 new malicious websites were registered daily in 2012 alone. These sites were either innocent websites that were compromised by malicious authors or built with the specific intention of distributing malware or phishing. This affects trademark holders whose reputations are at stake.
Furthermore, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) recorded 2,884 cybersquatting cases covering 5,084 domain names last year. The organization defines cybersquatting as "the pre-emptive registration of trademarks by third parties as domain names. Cybersquatters often exploit the first-come, first-served method of the domain name registration system by registering names incorporating trademarks, famous people or businesses with which they have no connection." Those that initiate such cybersquatting then plan to resell the domain name to the company or person involved at a price much higher than that of the initial registration cost. The clear vulnerabilities that lay within the virtual environment demonstrate the need for businesses and individuals to stay informed and take necessary precautions against such potential harm to their online representations.
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In addition to maintaining positive business reputations driven by security purposes, it is important to consider the impact that new TLDs may have on the public perception of a business. For example, some companies that have applied to become a registry of .bank are doing so on behalf of the global banking community. They plan to place restrictions on those that try to register the domain extension and only allow those that are a recognized bank and financial services company to use it. A local bank would want to consider this option. Potential visitors may feel a greater sense of trust or comfort visiting a .bank website, as they can rest assured that they are working with a secure online bank before they disclose confidential, personal details.
Although the new TLDs may seem intimidating to those unfamiliar with the concept, they do offer many opportunities for trademark holders and companies to defend their businesses and online presence from cybersquatters. Developing an extensive and elaborate domain portfolio is perhaps one of the most valuable methods to help secure a business identity on the Web. Consider proactively registering multiple variations of a professional domain name and domains that communicate different products specific to a company, and including variations of spellings or alternative domain extensions like .us or .com in your portfolio. These tactics will prevent others from registering your trademark or product as a domain and reduce the chance your brand will lose traffic and confuse customers, which could be detrimental to a business's online reputation and its bottom line.
The first new TLDs available for registration are planned to be launched by the end of 2013, as of writing, and a number of new domain extensions will be introduced per month. With more than 700 new TLDs scheduled, releases will occur gradually over the next 2-3 years for businesses and individuals to acquire.
Reserving, and then registering, your domain within multiple TLDs is a good way to reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of cybersquatting and increase brand protection, improve your business visibility on the Web and help to capture more traffic.