ICANN haz .youridentityhere
Brother, can you spare $185,000?
It’s web name land rush time again, and this time the stakes are pretty high. Also, unlike most previous attempts by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to expand the nameable Internet universe — and repeat the smashing success of .com — ICANN may be onto something this time.
The global agency which decides these things has tried a couple of times since the web’s Big Bang to create new, desirable web property. ICANN changed the world with the original six top level domains — .com, .edu, .gov, .mil, .net, .org and .arpa. Of these, the only top-level domain (TLD), which was meant for the private sector, still accounts for the overwhelming majority of the web names out there — they don’t call it the dot com revolution for nothing.
The web is just like real estate. There are only three things that matter: Location, location, and location. So the world shrugged when, in 2000, ICANN OK’d .aero, .biz, .coop, .info, .museum, .name and .pro. The .xxx top level domain got a lot of attention last year, but its time has pretty much passed. Really only .co, barely a year old, has shown any real oomph.
But ICANN has a huge advantage over your friendly neighborhood realtor. It can actually create new beachfront property.
So after trying repeatedly to sell us on bogus .com comparables, ICANN has a better idea now: You tell them where you want to live. It’ll cost you $185,000 (plus $25,000 a year). And while talk of the decline of the .com neighborhood is premature, the Internet name game finally got interesting again.
By making custom tlds expensive, we are unlikely to see much cybersquatting. Buying every name and word was a no brainer with those $10 domains for the rest of us, but the down payment now is too high to speculate anymore. And then there is that vetting process which will ensure that Microsoft doesn’t buy .Apple
By letting the market decide what is a desirable address, ICANN won’t be criticized for taking years to create top level domains that nobody really wants — while for some inexplicable reason never creating one we could really use: .movie.
Big and not-so-big companies will be lining up to acquire some suddenly available lots that can be built to create some major marketing and branding curb appeal.
But what about the personal brand? The new rules aren’t about the average netizen, but how things will get organized for the average netizen.
So the really interesting prospect is how aggressively big companies that are already fighting to become your universal online identity will get behind this. Facebook in particular is trying hard to become a proxy for the Internet and, closing in on one billion members, is well on its way.
When Facebook allowed members to claim a vanity name instead of the meaningless string of numbers they assigned there was a mad dash to reserve your name (as well as some excellent prankish variations). Facebook Connect buttons are all over the place.
And don’t forget Google. They already want you to sign in everywhere using your gmail account and have social network aspirations of their own.
Wouldn’t the world’s largest social network and and its arch nemesis for Internet hearts and minds just love to offer me johncabell.facebook or johncabell.google as my universal Internet calling card and login? That’s the real news.
There’s a big fight on to become your ID online, and making that process simple is the key. The whole point of web site names is to shield us from the set of numbers that really is your address on the web. Anything that makes a name memorable and shorter and more intuitive is like gold, which is why so many people already use their Twitter handles as an ID and why URL shorteners like bit.ly and tinyurl.com are all the rage.
In the ’90s I reserved johnabell.com and johncabell.com and the eponymous domain names for my immediate family. But that’s not possible anymore since most of them have already been bought. Social and cloud networks are the new places where we brand our identities online. For the vast majority of us it will be those familiar places — not ICANN and Go Daddy — which sell us a place to call our own.
The beauty of the new ICANN initiative is that rather than attempt to create a confusing parallel wannabe contender to dot-com, these custom domains will probably just direct new traffic to existing dot-coms. It’s a win-win.
Of course, this doesn’t solve everything. It’s not clear whether anyone should be able to buy .movie, for example — why should one Hollywood studio have more right to use that than another?
Although cybersquatting may not be practical, there are still opportunities for quick and ill-gotten gains. Me, I am going to check under the couch cushions to see if I can come up with the coin to buy .sucks. I will clean up by telling people it would be a shame if your name was to the left of that dot.