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What Small Business Owners Should Know About TLDs

coolcatLet’s face it: it’s hard to stand out in the vast landscape of the Internet of today, especially when it comes to your web address. If your business (like most) was a little slow to the .com game, your URL might leave a lot to be desired. For years, the Internet has been limited to just 22 generic top-level domains like the familiar .com, .net, and .org. Besides country domains (such as .jp for Japan or .ca for Canada), general-purpose domain choices have been very narrow.

Until recently that is. ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the organization responsible for Internet governance, is rolling out an effort to massively expand the number of top-level domains (TLDs). These moves should have a dramatic effect on the blueprint of the modern Web.

Just so you’re clear, a top-level domain (TLD) – also known as a domain extension – is the last segment of the domain name. A generic top-level domain signifies that the domain extension is widely open for registration to all users. The TLD is the letters immediately following the final dot in an Internet address. The TLD represents a significant element of the domain name, and is one of the key factors in improving the popularity of your site, shaping the image of your online presence, and boosting brand recognition among your audience. The TLD is representative of the domain’s type and purpose.

            In our Internet address, https://www.newtekone.com: .com is the top-level domain name (domain extension); and newtekone.com is the second-level domain name. Together, these constitute a fully qualified domain name (FQDN); the addition of http:// creates a complete URL.

Specialized domain extensions are especially useful when you are in need of alternatives to the domain you want to register. Nearly half of U.S. small-business owners say they’re dissatisfied with their internet addresses, and slightly more than that say they’ve lost business because they didn’t get their first choice in a generic top-level domain name, a national survey illustrates. Therefore, it’s likely that the domain your business finds most suitable for your website has been taken, and is unavailable for registration. So what do you do? Changing the first part of the domain may not be a good idea – you have already spent some time thinking of a truly awesome name that will be both user- and search-engine friendly. With the expansion of TLDs, you are now able to seek out an alternative domain extension without having to forfeit that winning idea.

Who’s making proposals for new extensions? One familiar name, Google, spent an estimated $1.87 million to submit 101 names last year (for example: .android, .youtube, .live); but in theory, anyone could propose a new top-level domain to ICANN – as so long as each proposal comes with a solid business plan and a $185,000 check.

Adding hundreds of generic top-level domains is intended to alleviate pressure on .com and other unrestricted domains. It will be easier for brands to obtain a memorable domain name as the pool of possible addresses is larger, and domain seekers won’t have to compete with the whole world. It could also reduce the misleading use of country codes. Further, more than 1,300 new domain extensions will expand the Internet namespace, allowing countless new name configurations. This will better connect people to the products, services, and individuals that matter to them.

Here, you can find detailed information about all new TLDs that are available and waiting for you. ICANN will eventually add over 1,000 new naming options. Many are already live, and more will be coming online steadily well into 2015.

To register or not to register?

Many Web experts claim that the new addresses are a bonus for small companies. Businesses will be able to get domains that better reflect their brand – perhaps “.diamonds” for jewelers or “.voyage” for travel agents – allowing for easier and more impactful marketing. There’s also the chance that the new TLDs can offer better security protections.

Critics, though, say the new addresses may cause confusion for customers and headaches for businesses; arguing that marketing a new TLD will take precious money and time. Opponents also include trademark lawyers who fear that the rollout will lead to a whole new assault of cyber-squatting, as entities will buy up the domain names of organizations to sell them back to them at often extortionate prices.

These new options will bring up new challenges. Small businesses will have to discover how to use the new options to their best advantage. However, we believe that’s a great improvement over the absence of choice businesses face right now.

If you are a business looking to highlight your core service, or if your business came online too late and missed the opportunity to claim the .com of your dreams, you may be interested in picking up a new address.

View a real-time list of all available TLDs from ICANN here.

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