This week ICANN finally and formally made the long anticipated decision to adopt the gTLD proposal that has been percolating through their processes for around 6 years now.

It feels to me that we’re on the cusp of some significant changes to how people will navigate online, and with that will come potential for some unprecedented new commercial opportunities.

I expect that the initial implementation phase will create a short term increase in reliance on search as the primary mechanism for finding relevant content. This puts Google in a position of even greater power, and opens up some interesting questions, such as what happens if Google can’t or wont index content in a particular gTLD?

You’ve got to imagine that until the new gTLDs gain mindshare among users, that any such unindexed gTLD will receive very little traffic. This may be enough to kill some or many of the proposed gTLDs very early.

But there is another plausible scenario that could play out very differently.

It’s not hard to imagine that users will quickly get comfortable with the new gTLD concept through some big players adopting them early.

Say Facebook gets on board and gives every one of it’s users a unique domain like yourname.facebook. And a bunch of global brands adopt their own gTLDs to help create global content and information architectures, and to help eliminate confusion from spam domains. Canon, Deloitte and others have already publicly declared their intent to do exactly that.

So all of a sudden you have the vast bulk of online users exposed to new gTLDs, and they begin to realize that those .com and .com.countrycode domains look a bit old fashioned.

And a bunch of entrepreneurs see the potential for using a new gTLD as a branding strategy and usage driver for a global consolidation of some of the highly monetised online classifieds vertical categories – like automotive, or employment, or travel.

Whoever owns .auto, .jobs, or .holiday has an excellent weapon to deliver a global campaign to wrestle that money from the various domestic incumbents all over the world.

This becomes possible only under a cutting edge proposal for online domain naming and navigation, but it harks back to the ancient tradition, where providers of the same services in old cities would cluster in the same neighborhood or in the same streets.

Saville Row in London is full of tailors, Kapabashi in Tokyo is full of kitchenware stores. Most older cities will have a ‘Baker Street’ and a ‘Butcher Street’.

This did not happen by accident. It happened because clustering of services makes them easier to find. It simplifies navigation. It removes the need for a map.

That simplification will help condition users to look to when they need a car, or to look for employment.

And those specialized search subdomains will be powered by specialist search providers, selected by the owners of those gTLD.

All the domestic incumbent operators of those verticals will need to establish priority placement and traffic deals with the specialist search operators for those global domains.

And suddenly Google’s search supremacy, the main map to the web, starts to look a bit shaky.


Richard Foxworthy is founder and principal consultant of Tunnel Visionary Group, a convergent media consultancy, with specialist expertise in content, technology and business strategy for iTV, web, mobile, and print.

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