Last week on AdAge.com, I declared (in perhaps a bit of a "drama queen" tone) that ICANNs new top-level domain plan is one of the biggest changes on the Internet in a decade.
For those just getting up to speed, what's coming are a host of new "generic top-level domains" where the standard .org, .com, .uk and others are going to be joined by .books, .fly, .adventure, or anything you or anyone can dream up.
Later that day, Tom Foremski (Silicon Valley Watcher founder and contributor to ZDNet) correctly challenged my rather grandiose assertion in ZDNet:
"It's far too strong to call this "One of the Biggest Changes on the Internet in a Decade…"
A domain name has very little value unless it is used in marketing campaigns — it's the marketing that creates the value — not the domain name.
Also, Google is favoring large brands in its search results, so it's already discounting other TLDs that belong to squatters or small businesses… That means there's little value in terms of SEO…"
His well-aimed point is that gTLDs have limited value for marketers because in and of themselves they have no new inherent value. Other experts agree. In this article corporate naming expert Naseem Javed argues gTLDs are a needed expansion of the global Internet structure and many objections fall under the "much ado about nothing" category.
While both positions have merit – I think both fail to see that ICANNs gTLD Program is game changing because it fundamentally transforms the previously quasi standard gTLDs (e.g. ".com", ".net" etc) into a new, very visible tool in the marketers' toolkit.
With a little technological imagination and one can envision a new era in "mass customization" marketing (a term I gratefully borrow from the updated and wonderfully relevant book; The Experience Economy). In this model, gTLDs can come onto the stage (pun intended) as the "mass customization" platform for companies. In practical terms, a large etailer will be able to create individualized programs that give consumers new, monetizable experience offerings. The upside is significant if a company can leverage gTLDs "mass customization" capability to make their experience offering highly sticky and monetizable.
This is just one example of how gTLDs could be an awesome marketing platform and that 's nothing compared to what the real experts will imagine once they dive in. I am not saying this is good or bad – only that it IS a big deal for us marketers. It is also why I named the upcoming gTLD Conference: What%u2019s at Stake. It's meant to begin a discovery process of the many unknown impacts likely to emerge as gTLDs become the new marketing game in town.
I'll end with this quote from Kevin Murphy, editor of DomainIncite, (a domain news blog) who summarized the situation very well: "The problem seems to be the apparent disconnect between what the domain name industry thinks marketers should think and what they do think."
That's why this is a big deal in my book.
For more information about the conference, visit: www.whatsatstake.com