This puts a whole new dimension on Mergers and Acquisition Strategy. What happens when a subsidiary is sold off? Does the content go away? How would companies handle re-direction to new sites? How will broken links be handled?
“Come 2012, confused camera customers might be able to point their browsers to a Web address that looks very different from what’s available today: support.canon.
That’s because the organization in charge of such names, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is planning on a dramatic rewriting of the rules for Web addresses that could demote .com’s importance.
Today there are just a few of what are called generic top-level domains–.com, .net, .org, .biz, and .edu, for example. But ICANN wants to open the door to, potentially, hundreds or thousands more of these GTLDs.
That’s a big change, especially for those who have a brand to protect on the Internet and were taken by surprise by the virtual land grab that took place with .com addresses in the 1990s. Here’s a look at what GTLDs mean now and in the future.
What is a generic top-level domain, and how do I get one?
In an Internet address, the top-level domains is what comes after the last period in the main server address. There are two broad types: the generic top-level domains such as .com and country code top-level domains such as, .jp for Japan or .de for Germany. With ICANN’s expansion, though, the term “generic” is something of a misnomer: it could include not only something like .auto or .hotel, but also branded domains such as .ibm or .safeway.
When .com addresses became must-have business accoutrements, companies scrambled to register their own or buy them from those who already owned them. Things will be different with the GTLD expansion though: instead of registering a domain for a modest fee through a registry such as GoDaddy, those who want a GTLD of their own must apply to ICANN become a registry. And it’s expensive: table stakes are $185,000 for the application fee, $25,000 a year to operate the registry. If somebody else wants the domain, bidding will determine the winner, and for domains registered on the top-level domain cost 25 cents apiece after the first 50,000.
For a detailed look at the process, check the most recent GTLD applicant guidebook, but be warned: the most recent version is a 312-page, 4.7MB download.
Why expand the range of top-level domains?
ICANN, a not-for-profit corporation founded in 1998 to oversee the Internet address system, tries to promote competition, including competition in the market for domain names. Most prominent, global sites today need an address ending in .com, and one company, VeriSign, is the registry that oversees that domain. A company wanting more control over its brand on the Internet might want to apply to ICANN to become a registry controlling a domain with its own name. Other companies might want to operate broader registries open to all comers, perhaps with a very generic domain such as .web or something more specific such as .art. GTLDs could help peole launch Web sites using a family name even if the .com version is taken. And cities are expected to get in on the action, too, with local domains such as .sydney.
There are a lot of companies in the world, of course, and ICANN appears to be bracing itself for a lot of new activity: In notes from its September meeting, ICANN indicated it thinks it will be able to accommodate adding something like 1,000 new domains each year.
Big companies worry a lot about controlling their brands, and GTLDs offers a new mechanism for doing so. A company that secured a GTLD with its own name doesn’t have to open it up to use by others, said Karla Valente, director of ICANN’s product services communications. “That is possible [to have a] top-level domain that doesn’t have second- and third-level selling. There are many brand owners that find this strategy very appealing,” with their own control over the domain rather than reliance on third parties. “They also believe this could lead them to all kinds of different branding and marketing strategies.”
Filling ICANN’s coffers is not a reason to expand the range of GTLDs, though. “The model of the program is to be revenue neutral. we are not here to make money on new TLDs,” Valente said.
When people start seeing GTLDs arrive?
“I think 2012 at the earliest, Valente said.”
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