What’s in a Name? Whether or Not to Purchase a New Domain

In the age of online living, it can sometimes be difficult to determine hoax from truth, safety from scam, fact from fiction. And so it goes with the rise in new, themed domain extensions that are the talk of tech boards, blog posts and the virtual world in general.

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Indeed, many people are finding themselves lured by the idea of jumping on a new domain such .bike, .lawyer, .coffee and so on with the idea that, when someone searches for a bike store, lawyer’s office or coffee house a particular business will appear favorably in search results. Indeed, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers rolled out about 1,400 new themed domain extensions in the last year, and it’s certain more are coming.

However, there are great many things to consider before you give yourself and your business or blog page over to a new extension. For one, all tech experts agrees that the traditional TLDs (Top Level Domains) such as .com, .net., .org and so on still rule on the Internet. Unfortunately for many business owners their .com name of choice isn’t available, and that makes grabbing a new gTLD (Generic Top Level Domain) attractive. Here, as many greed-driven scammers promise, small businesses can greatly enhance their presence in result listings from search engines and establish a brand that garners attention.

In essence, though, it’s becoming evident the vast majority of online users just aren’t that comfortable typing in a new or unknown extension at the end of a URL just yet. So many experts suggest that, if you do decide to get a themed domain, also maintain or secure a standard .com and have the former redirect visitors to the latter. This can get a little expensive, especially if it’s just a small business trying to get by and not a giant corporation trying to build a global brand name.

Also, studies show that new domain names aren’t really helping businesses appear more prominently in search results, as they’re still considered “generic” by many search engines and therefore put on the same level as the traditional extensions. So if a business or individual is looking for an advantage with a new extension, it’s not likely they’ll get one.

Additionally, there are myriad trademark issues to consider when going after a gTDL: if a buyer purchases a domain name before a trademark was applied for, the trademark owner can’t take the name away from the original buyer. However, the trademark owner can still claim that they were using the name before the buyer acquired it. In essence, a gTDL buyer needs to be aware of any and all names that contain trademarks, brands or company names, as serious legal issues can ensue.

Whether or not the new gTDLs will catch on in a big way—and whether they’re even a good idea as this point—is still up for debate. But as the old saying goes, “buyer beware”: anyone planning on jumping on the gTDL bandwagon should do the research and consider whether or not their site will be better served by sticking with a traditional TDL.

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