The pool of Internet suffixes is getting ready to grow exponentially, thanks to efforts from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The non-profit organization will host a three-day conference in San Francisco next week to discuss plans and pricing for expanding the pool of domain suffixes.
ICANN says new suffixes are necessary as the existing pool of domain names is depleted. But the new suffixes will come at a hefty price. The application fee for a new designation like .eco, for instance, is $185,000. And applicants will have to pay ICANN an annual fee of $25,000 to keep the suffix.
The new suffix initiative could boost traffic to existing country code top-level domains, which haven't really caught on in popularity, despite being in use for many years. The government of Montenegro, for instance, makes its country's .me suffix available to commercial and private Internet users for a fee. The island nation of Tuvalu has sold its .tv code for more than a decade.
Despite the availability of these catchy country codes, they have failed to catch on with consumers and .com is still the suffix of choice for those seeking to establish a Web presence. But with more than 90 million .com addresses already in use, the number of available combinations is dwindling. Companies that market country codes have begun stepping up their worldwide sales efforts in response to the .com shortage.
“The opportunity for us is to become the platform of choice for entrepreneurs around the world,” said Juan Diego Calle, chief executive of .CO Internet, a company based in Miami that operates the “.co” registry under license from the Colombian government. “To do that, we want to build massive awareness.”
Foreign governments have a vested interest in boosting sales of their country codes. Colombia, for instance, gets 25 percent of the revenue from sales of .co through its deal with .CO Internet. The company raised $20 million in .co sales last year, and sales revenue is expected to reach $30 million this year according to Calle. He predicts .co registrations will reach five million within the next five years.
Go Daddy, the world's largest domain name registrar, played up the .co suffix in an advertisement during the Super Bowl that featured the infamous Go Daddy girls as well as Joan Rivers.
Not everyone is on board with the proliferation of new domain suffixes. Lauren Weinstein, co-founder of the group People for Internet Responsibility, believes the suffixes will cause problems for trademark holders as well as confusion for Internet users. ICANN says the opposite is true, and adds that companies such as IBM (News - Alert) would have first dibs on the .ibm domain name through the new naming conventions.
"Our job is to protect competition and give extra choices for consumers and entrepreneurs," Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of ICANN's board of directors, told the Washington Post. Others believe that the country codes could also come into widespread use if marketers position them well.
“As long as it doesn’t become well-known that it’s just a bastardization of the country code for Colombia, it could take off,” said Josh Bourne, managing partner of FairWinds Partners, which advises firms on the use of domain names.
Edited by Tammy Wolf