Soon food could have an internet all its own--sort of. Earlier this spring, a number of domain extensions aimed at specific industries and geographic areas began to roll out to the public, meaning that people could get website addresses like www.exercise.guru (actually a url squatter bought that one, sorry) or www.kellyrides.bike. Later this year .food and other food-related extensions are expected to be released.
Last year, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) released thousands of new generic top-level domains, known as gTLDs. This means we will no longer be limited to .com, .org, and their less-popular cousins. Instead, what that means is that ICANN is making available over 600 domain extensions like .photography, .healthcare, .restaurant and .food.
Watch ICANN's video explaining the new gTLDs aka "the new dots."
All of a sudden, said Andrew Rosener, CEO of domain broker Media Options, your website won't have to be www.MikesNewYorkPizza.com anymore. It could be www.MikesPizza.restaurant or www.MikesNewYork.pizza or www.MikesPizza.nyc.
But, not yet.
Right now, the whole thing is "kind of a cluster&@$%," said Rosener.
When ICANN announced these new gTLDs two years ago, any operating company could apply to run one. It costs $185,000 to apply to operate one of the new gTLDs, said Rosener, but if there are multiple applications then there is an auction. One of the biggest applications, Donuts.co, spent about $56 million applying for over 300 gTLDs. Many of those applications are just now being sorted out and finally rolled out to the public. That doesn't mean, though, that there's a lot of clarity about who is running which ones, how expensive they are, or even why you'd want one.
Because of the volume of domain extensions, there's "a lot of confusion," said Rosener. The renewal and operating fees will vary from operator to operator. Which registrars support which domain extensions will also vary, ie. some of them you'll be able to purchase at GoDaddy (the biggest registrar with 84% of registration) but some you won't. How those domain extensions are supported will also vary. What that means practically is if you want to register your food business with a url that ends in .food or .sanfrancisco or .organic, you may not be able to figure out how to do so or how much you'll have to pay.
And, perhaps the biggest thing that's still unclear is how these new gTLDs will be treated in search engines. Right now, for example, Google favors .com addresses and addresses that have been registered for a longer amount of time. No one knows how or if that will change.
"It's yet to be determined how Google will treat them in its search algorithm," said Rosener. Google is also applying to operate some of the new gTLDs itself--including .google, .yotube, and .web--through a shell company called Charleston Road Registry. If Google treats its own domain extensions differently than other new extensions, then there could be problems.
The most popular of the new domain extensions or gTLDs has so far been .guru, which has over 30,000 registrations. About 18,000 people also registered to get .photography domains. But, those are the most popular and they're certainly not going to get anywhere near as many registrations as traditional domain extensions--or even as many as new extensions like .co (which got 1.5 million). Right now, .food has about 250,000 people pre-registered, which just means that those people want to get additional information and be notified when .food becomes available. It's unlikely .food will actually garner anywhere close to that many addresses. It's expected to be made available later this year. "None of these will ever get a million registrations," said Rosener.
The main reason people will want to buy one of these new domain extensions is to market their small business, or because the available mainstream web addresses is limited.
"It creates interesting marketing assets," said Rosener. "But, it's not viable as a primary address for anything besides small and medium businesses."