ICANN, the governing body for all Internet addresses, has announced new changes on how domains will be named in the future, which could definitely spell trouble for not only Google but all the other search engines as well. But they won’t be the only ones. Small webmasters and online marketers should be more concerned and troubled by the introduction of these new “generic” or “dot anything” domains.
Mainly because these new ICANN changes will transform and alter the web forever.
The impact and range of this transformation will largely depend upon two factors. First, how wide or liberal will ICANN be in their interpretation and implementation of these new domain naming changes? Second, how quickly Internet users adjust to these changes and for that matter, whether or not, they will even use these new generic domains.
However, if human nature stays true and previous Internet usage stays firm, web users will want the fastest and easiest way to find what they’re looking for on the web. This is where the new “generic” domains could change the whole playing field. It could even possibly transform the web as we know it today.
Starting next year – between January 2012 to April 2012 – companies can apply to ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) for a “generic” or “dot anything” domain. Instead of using say a “.com” “.net” “.biz”… a company will be able to buy a domain such as “www.hotels” or “www.hotel” for a price tag of $185,000 and a $25,000 annual fee, which will probably mean anyone searching on the web for a hotel room could just type “hotels” or “hotel” directly into their browser and the site holding this domain will pop-up.
After a recent vote to approve these changes, the Chairman of ICANN’s board of directors, Peter Thrush, stated: “Today’s decision will usher in a new internet age. We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration. Unless there is a good reason to restrain it, innovation should be allowed to run free.”
Unfortunately, this new Internet age comes with a hefty price tag which will be out of reach for the average site owner, leaving the Internet accessible only to the elite or the rich. An open and free Internet will still exist, but certain sections, mainly those which control all the lucrative e-commerce and business on the web, will be firmly blocked and regulated. The prime real estate on the web will no longer be open to anyone who has 8 or 10 bucks to buy a domain. Only wealthy individuals and companies will be able to afford these new top-level domains.
As every webmaster or online marketer will tell you, getting the top spot on the web is everything. These new changes could spell disaster for current “.com”, “.net”, “.org”… domains because the loss in direct traffic alone could be very significant. Web users will simply type in “loans”, “cars”, “hotels”, “banks”, “laptops”… into their browsers to find what they’re looking for on the web. Also, since a “dot com” will no longer be “king of the hill”, its value will be somewhat diminished, along with millions of other domains ending in a suffix, resulting in a potential paper-loss in the trillions of dollars.
The only saving grace here is that most surfers use “long tail” keywords or phrases to find what they’re searching for on the web. For example, someone looking for a vacation rental in Florida will usually type in something like: “florida vacation rental” and it is very unlikely that someone would purchase this domain for a 185 grand, unless the traffic and economics were feasible (Even then most people are not going to type in “floridavacationrental” when they’re looking for “florida vacation rental” so the direct browser route might be useless, unless of course, future browsers are designed to automatically combine these words together and read them as a top level domain). Another more likely scenario is where we could possibly see a company paying that amount for say a generic domain “rentals” or “rental” and having sub-domains such as “florida.rentals” or “florida.rental”.
The SEO fallout from these new “dot anything” domains will probably be the most important factor to consider. These domains will quickly rise to the top of the search engines. They simply will have the keyword DNA to reach the top, unless search engines put rules into place to lower their importance or rankings, which is not likely to happen. Besides, most companies buying these new domains will already have tons of backlinks and top rankings for lucrative keyword phrases in their niche markets and acquiring such a generic domain will be a way of cementing their dominance in these markets and/or to protect their trademarks.
But getting back to our original discussion or question: how can these new domains spell trouble for Google and the other search engines? The trouble lies in how surfers use the web and how they start their Internet day. It all has to do with “portals” or “points of entry” onto the web. Facebook is Google’s biggest competitor, not because it is a rival search engine, but because people start their Internet day by logging onto Facebook and staying there for the rest of the day. While they are on Facebook, they’re obviously not using Google to find what they’re looking for on the web.
With the introduction of these new top level generic domains, Internet users could have thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of extra “portals” or “points of entry” for accessing the web directly. They won’t be anywhere near the importance or size of Facebook, but they could be much more detrimental to Google, because these will mainly be the “commercially keyworded” entry points. Google’s bread and butter is advertising, mainly delivered through its Adsense and Adwords properties, which are mainly dictated by lucrative keyword phrases. Could these new “portal entry points” eat away at Google’s most important and lucrative keyword traffic and ad offerings?
Will Internet users bypass the search engines and go directly through their browsers to these “on topic” portals? Will a new generic domain quickly develop a prominent status or recognition on the web with surfers? When searching for rentals, we don’t need Google to tell us to go to a comprehensive rental portal which lists and directs you to the right house or apartment rental you need. Need a loan? Forget Google – go directly to a portal which will direct you right to the loan you need. Need a laptop… well you get the picture.
All this will take some time to blossom and we are talking years and decades here rather than months. BUT, we are talking about the future of the web and how that future will be significantly altered by these new changes.
There is much speculation on how all this plays out. Will companies have the marketing savvy and Internet know-how to make these “portals” popular like Facebook has done? Over time will they have the “business sense” not to use “powered by Google” search and develop their own “in-house” search engines promoting their own partnered interests and companies? More importantly, will new companies gradually start to come to these “portals” for their advertising, rather than to Google?
Let’s face it, Google is very diversified and probably strong enough to weather any kind of storm coming its way, but a potential wave of thousands of direct portal sites or domains, offering competition on all fronts, might prove troublesome. Let’s just hope all the good folks at Google are 10 steps ahead of the rest of us. After all, didn’t waves of barbarians conquer Rome?