Changes to Top Level Domains

A rehash of some quick thoughts I posted to our project mailing list. Please do read the responses. I’ll follow up with a more considered post in the near future.

David sent me this story about the changes to TLDs. Very interesting. I didn’t realise the flexibility that will be available. As far as I can see, potentially any* TLD will be up for grabs. So I could ask to register .kljhasdfkjhasdf and .josswinn and .jlwinn and .jossisasexgod and so on.

Of course, people have been trying to get around the current limitations for a while e.g. services like

I think that combined with the recent developments in browser location bar technology where search of page titles and URLs is now integrated with web search (even instant web search with the omnibox, encouraging a google click, rather than a direct click from the bar), you could argue that this combination of moves is further commodifying natural language expression at the level of TLDs, supported by and integrated into browser technology.

There’s now a much more free market in domain names, rather than one restricted by TLDs. The value of some existing domains, can only decrease as a practically infinite number are now made available. It clearly has implications for thinking about URIs as ‘assets’.

With the most recent browsers, the following could all serve the same function quite well: (with page title ‘Study at Lincoln’) (with page content including ‘study at lincoln’) (with page title ‘Study at Lincoln’) (with page title or content including ‘Study at Lincoln’) (with page title or content including ‘Study at Lincoln’)

As David said on Twitter, the perceived value of the domain could plummet over time as institutions develop their brand to the extent of their own personalised TLD. I guess that we need to be ready to grab .unilincoln .lincolnuni .universityoflincoln .lincolnuniversity at the very least.

I think that we need to produce a considered** blog post about the implications of all of this for SEO, as clearly search is increasingly all that matters. James is writing a nice post about browser location bar developments. I could write one, furthering my thoughts here. Alex, Nick: could one of you write a post on what this all means for SEO? Is this something worth doing? It seems that the value of ‘cool URIs’ has been decisively pushed to the technical/developer domain, where good, reliable syntax remains valued as a predictable source of data but offers few user benefits over the instant search omnibox, for example. What do you think?

* re-reading the story, it’s not quite the situation I imagined where *any* phrase can be registered as a TLD. It looks like there will remain some regulation over the use of the new TLDs, but the University of Lincoln examples above still seem valid. I’m assuming that if there could be a .mashable or .redcross, then there could be a .unilincoln or .lincoln, too. The comments in the article also suggest that the cost of the new TLDs will be $185K, which clearly has implications for this new ‘market’. I’m trying to find recent documentation on the ICANN website about all of this, but don’t see it.

** this is not that post!