Domain name lottery
The first generic top level domains (gTLDs) to be considered for launch have been decided by a lottery.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) has received 1,917 applications for a gTLD, and successful suffixes will begin launching from April 2013. Among the first 300 - therefore likely to be considered in early 2013 - are applications from companies such as .qvc, .fiat and .mcdonalds.
Geographic applications including .tokyo, .paris and .cymru are also high on the list, as are communities including .mormon and .gay. It will be up to the gTLD owner whether to restrict its usage.
However, an application being considered by Icann is no guarantee it will go live. Over 250 gTLDs have already received objections from governments, while if more than one company has applied for the same suffix, it may have to go to auction - there have been four applications for .play, and two for .sex. Meanwhile, many companies including Google reportedly declined the $100 fee for entering the priority draw, and therefore won't be considered until 2014 or even later.
What's in a name?
TLD suffixes have traditionally been used to determine the geographic location or type of website (for example .org, .gov or .xxx which launched in September 2011). However, making generic TLDs available has opened the door to cities and communities seeking a similar level of recognition. Meanwhile, brands applying for gTLDs may be hoping to cash in on the novelty value, as well as avoid others using their name; cybersquatting is a well-known problem.
Furthermore, the TLD is sometimes thought to be one of the signals Google uses to determine the relevance and authority of websites, and it remains to be seen whether gTLDs will be used in the same way - although the recent devaluing of exact match domains suggests the impact may not be drastic.
Natalie Booth, head of search at theEword, said: "It will be interesting to see how and why brands use their new generic top level domains, and of course, whether it has any impact on rankings. However, it seems the geographic and community suffixes will be more useful for users, while the brand-name TLDs are more for vanity and marketing purposes."