By: Daniel Dore
“Carl Icahn should buy ICANN”
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (or ICANN) voted this past Thursday on a proposal to relax the rules on top-level domains. I know, exciting stuff, right? Basically the ruling ends the restriction to website addresses ending with .com, .net, .org, .ca, .uk, etc., and opens it up for almost any word to be an internet suffix (some restrictions do apply, however, and the names will be monitored). This opens up a can or worms for any company with a popular website (such as Yahoo!); you will not only have to purchase every iteration of your domain in the .com realm (yahooo.com, yhaoo.com, etc.), but also will now have to “guard” against every new top-level name that pops up; yahoo.cpm, yahoo.xom, etc. This will make it difficult to prevent phishing sites from popping up all the time attempting to exploit your users (at least, those that still type in web addresses – see my diatribe below). While it will undoubtedly cause a whole host of problems; on the positive side, it will also allow people to be even more creative in choosing a domain name to register (as you’ll see on every other site that mentioned this story other than this one…okay, maybe one example).
Rather than listing off all the possible names I’d like to own, I ask this question: what’s in a name anymore? When pizza.com sold for US$2.6 million earlier this year, I was totally flabbergasted – are domain names REALLY that important anymore? I will admit that there are advantages to a “good” domain name (organic search traffic, high search rankings, the “simplicity” principle that, if I’m looking for pizza, isn’t pizza.com a great place to look?) but isn’t search visibility arguably more important to the “average” user? For every pizza.com or vodka.com that sells for millions of dollars, there’s a much larger number of companies with non-standard names that become part of the culture, like Flickr, Twitter, Hulu, and countless others. It’s the idea, not necessarily the name. Now, there are naming mistakes that could pose a problem, but you certainly wouldn’t abandon a million-dollar idea if your first choice for a domain isn’t available. As computer and internet access achieve higher and higher saturation, the number of users that are accessing the internet for the first time is drastically dwindling. Subsequenty, more and more users are achieving what could be considered “familiarity” with the workings of the world wide interwebs. Even the most basic of user has a grasp of the concept of a search engine, and how to find the information they’re looking for (asking the grandkids for help “getting the Google”). Between search engines, bookmarks (both social and non-social) the history bar, advertising, etc., who still memorizes and types web URLs anymore? The destination is more important than how much you paid for the journey (unless it’s advertising; then it matters). For all the assertions that “.com is the internet”, a rose company by any other name will smell just as sweet, be it rose.rose, rose.flower, or pete.rose. Okay, maybe not the last one.