The web is about to undergo one of the biggest changes it has ever seen – the launch of new generic top level domains, which begins in 2013, will dramatically increase the number of available domain name extensions.
But despite ICANN’s best efforts, it seems many who currently own websites are unaware new gTLDs are set to begin rolling out in the next few months – research by domain name registrar 123-reg.co.uk revealed that only 30 per cent of people have heard of new gTLDs.
The new extensions should provide a wealth of openings for savvy web design firms, but only if they are able to convince new and existing clients of the benefits of expanding their online presence.
Here are some ideas about the kind of opportunities that lie just over the horizon.
New gTLDs will include a number of city-specific extensions such as .London and .NYC. That means companies operating in these locations will have the chance to woo local customers in a new way. A hotel firm could set up hotelexample.london and include city-specific information and offers with the aim of engaging customers in a new way.
Web designers who have experience of creating superb, localized sites should start considering ways of pitching to clients who have previously focused on having a national and international online presence.
Branded social and community sites
The scope of new gTLDs is so wide, the application program was open to almost anyone with the funds to cover the application fee. This means plenty of well-known brands have snapped up branded extensions such as .BMW.
Quite what these firms have in mind for their extensions remains to be seen, but one school of thought is that there will be a dramatic increase in the number of branded social and community sites as companies look to reduce their reliance on third-party platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
That means there will be plenty of opportunities for design agencies with expertise in this field to pitch for new business from some big clients. Even if you don’t have a pre-existing relationship with a major brand, you could always take a leaf out of Distilled’s book and try and attract the attention of a huge name by letting them know what you could do for them.
New opportunities for multilingual agencies
Until fairly recently technical limitations meant domain name extensions were restricted to the Latin alphabet. That changed in 2010 and now new gTLDs will bring a host of other extensions with non-latin characters.
Only time will tell the exact impact of this change on the web as a whole, but it seems likely that the move will go down well in Arabic and Asian countries. That means there could be a wealth of new opportunities for design agencies with the language skills needed to operate in these sectors. This tranche of new gTLDs will be the first to launch, so if you do have aspirations in this area then you will need to move quickly.
Encouraging clients to think beyond brand protection
Brand-savvy web companies will undoubtedly be snapping up extensions featuring their trademarked terms during the relevant sunrise periods before redirecting them to their existing homepages.
At the very least this lack of imagination is a shame, but if innovative competitors decide to use the new extension to proactively seek out new customers, then the price for inaction could be a drop in market share.
It’s not hard to conceive of an online clothes retailer building an exciting and interesting presence on a .fashion site, or a newspaper building an active community at a .blog address. Embracing new gTLDs at an early stage could help companies secure the kind of boost that was seen at the start of the first .com boom.
Because of this, the ability to help clients get to grips with the opportunities presented by new gTLDs could prove to be highly lucrative for web designers who are prepared for the coming changes.