So what’s the new gTLD programme all about?

new-gtld-visual-map_50ab616eccd4b_w1500NYC. A city so cool that it claims to be the center of the earth.  I was in a cab heading for the city after arriving at JFK on the early evening flight from London last year.  Another week of work in the company of the team in Manhattan, possibly with some baseball or basketball thrown in for R and R.  It’s not all domains, domains, domains in this business although the launch of the new gTLD programme had seen me have to fly around the world in all weather to deliver training courses to our sale and support teams.  Last week paris, zuerich, today NYC, next week Copenhagen and the capital of Bayern in Germany, Munich.

The programme is a real game changer for any business.  Everyone is having to think about the impact the new domains will have on their company in the new digital world.  The Ceo, the attorney, the marketing team, the technology group and even the financial guru.  The online world as we know it is about to move to a new dimension.

For those with vision, the new world holds financial opportunities abound.  The winners in the new digital world will be those who implement a strategy that both provides online brand protection as well as marketing opportunities the likes of which we have never seen on the web before.

Our use of the web has changed over the years.  For instance, more than 50 percent of the data we use today is video. We all watch on average 5 hours of online video per month whether it be via download music video or an online movie.  No longer is the most searched term on google porn.   We have all become an expert in photography, uploading more pictures to online social network enterprises such as Facebook, flickr and msn. Technology means that families on the other side of the world can keep in touch with a webcam through skype, another example of a company that has built a digital brand that has become synonymous today as a noun just like Hoover or xerox.  And then of course there is the brand that still today everyone associates with everything that is cool, hot and wow, apple.

So back to today.  On landing at JFK I had to wait for nearly an hour for a taxi.  I would have paid a premium to book one as I queued in the line to pass through immigration.  Unfortunately try  as I might I could not find a website that would allow me to do this.  But in the new domains world I will be able to search for “cab.nyc” or “nyc.taxi” and book one straight away.  No fuss with trawling through search rank results to find the content that .google thinks is most relevant to me.  Direct navigation will be the way forward.  And if I haven’t yet booked my hotel then a simple visit to nyc.hotels whilst I’m on the way into the city will enable me to quickly find the best deals on broadway.

The geographic possibilities are endless.  hair.nyc for your emergency hair styling issues, coffee.nyc to find the nearest caffeine parlour and beer.nyc for your nearest bar.  The marketing team should already be all over .the possibilities for the future of their brand.

But it is not all about the opportunities for global domination for a company.  In those dark corners of the web there are those who scheme and plot to attack brands online and offline.  The protection of digital assets has to be first and foremost in the definition of any new domains strategy.  The new gTLD programme will present risks to a company on three fronts.

Firstly there are brand reputation issues.  Negative sentiment domains such as sucks, adult and gripe if in the wrong hands could seriously damage any brand online.  Imagine a major brand waking up one day and finding a .sucks website online, containing material, whether true or not, criticising them.  Or a .porn, associating their brand with adult themes? Enough to make even the sharpest brand protection attorney shudder.

For brands that are focused in the financial or bank sector, the threat of phishing will be a massive worry.  It will be all too easy for someone to register a .brand, .group or .institute to give the impression of authenticity and trust.  Unfortunately, most web users .are still far too trusting and could be easily fooled by an authentic looking website and a relevant domain name.

Finally, for those who trade online, the constant threat of brand damage through counterfeit goods is all too real.  Unfortunately new domains such as .shop, .store and .discount will be a haven for cyber criminals to set up replica brand websites and sell counterfeit brand goods. The damage can be done before a brand knows it’s happened.

For all of these three threats the solution is very simple.  A domain strategy will identify the opportunities and threats with the new gTLD programme. Brands can keep one step ahead by starting to plan today.  Knowing which domains to register or block is the first step in the brave new online world.

For those who haven’t worked it out yet, the words in red are all new gTLDs…that’s why they are a game changer for our industry.

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