Hundreds of new, generic, Top Level Domains (gTLDs) are coming online the summer/fall of 2013.  These changes are nothing short of monumental, and will forever change the landscape of the Internet.  Extensions such as .accountant, .church, .company (is this one really necessary?), and .fish open up a whole new realm of possibilities for marketers and publishers online.

Here's the most important information regarding these additions to the world wide web.

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What are Top-Level Domains?

Some of the most commonly used top-level domains are .com, .edu. .org, and are also called TLDs, Strings, Domain Extensions, Not-Coms, Character Sets, Domain Addresses, Domain Endings, URLs, Domains, Web Addresses, and Internet Names, among others[4].  

There are currently around 50 TLDs available.  A simple domain availability search at domain registrars such as GoDaddy will reveal that many countries also have their own TLD.  The most popular nation-specific domains are .us, .ly (Libya), .mx (Mexico), .uk (the United Kingdom), and .in (India). Soon-to-be-released extensions include .miami, .africa, and more.  The opportunities are mind-boggling.

The current structure and increasingly limited availability of 'functional' domain names have inspired the group responsible for assigning names and numbers to the Internet throughout the world, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), to develop a whole cadre of new web extensions for the online world.  A complete listing of newly available gTLDs can be found at ICANN.

New gTLD Availability Timeline and LaunchCredit: 

What about my existing trademarks?

If you're the owner of a brand such as Coca-Cola or Amazon, you'll want to know how to protect your brand from 'landgrabbers' during this new gold rush.

The people of ICANN have created the Trademark Clearinghouse to help owners of registered trademarks protect their brand identity.  The clearinghouse has provided a brief video to help explain their purpose, below.  

To understand more about how to register a trademark, read this.

How to Protect Your Trademark

Protecting your trademark is relatively simple, and not terribly expensive.  A basic registration costs $150 USD per year, and includes up to 10 registered extensions.  Additional domain registrations would cost $1 USD per year, and are unlimited[5].  

Registering your trademark is quite valuable, as it protects the brand during the 'sunrise' or beginning of availability period from landgrabbers and would-be domain squatters.  If a brand fails to register its trademark, however, 

Not every trademark holder needs to purchase every newly availabe gTLD to protect their identity, either.  For example, a church may decide to relocate their web presence to a .church or .faith address, but wouldn't have a need to mirror the site on a .directory URL.  Similarly, any company wishing to protect the integrity of its online presence would need only register a handful of additional domains.  Just as most organizations don't need to own every potential variety of their web presence (.com, .edu., .org, etc..) in the current structure, the upcoming changes don't matter much, either.

The most important thing for owners of registered trademarks to do is:

  1. Register for protection at the Trademark Clearinghouse during the Sunrise period
  2. Choose up to 10 relevant URL extensions, more if necessary
  3. Monitor any trademark infringements using the Trademark Clearinghouse's Trademark Claims Service
  4. Learn about registering domains

Hundreds of brands have created their own TLDs as well, including .chrysler, .google, .jeep, .virgin, and many, many more.  These are privately owned, and will not be available for public access; you will not be able to purchase the domain, for example, as it is privately owned.

What's next?

The Sunrise period of 30 days before domain names are offered to the general public will be open only to registered trademark holders, to allow them the opportunity to protect the domains that best match their trademark.

After this 30-day period of protection comes the 'Landrush' period.  This is when the domain will be made available for public registration, and will likely result in many of the best names being snapped up quickly.

Your best bet right now is to register with the Trademark Clearinghouse (if you have a trademark to protect) or check the Availability Timeline and Launch schedule posted by  Keep an eye on your desired gTLD, and get in line.

It's going to be the most exciting year ever for the Internet!

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