What's a brand TLD?
A brand top-level domain is a domain name extension matching the name of a brand, a company or another organisation. The creation of brand TLDs was first enabled in 2012, when a small number of companies seized the opportunity. So we now have TLDs such as .barclays, .bnpparibas, .philips .wolterskluwer, .kpn and .google. Having a brand TLD gives you end-to-end control over your URLs. You don't necessarily have to register names under other extensions, and you call the shots in your own domain.
2012 window was short and expensive
Not many companies took the plunge in 2012, with good reason. The procedure was complex and expensive, and the return was hard to predict. After all, no one had actually used a brand TLD for real. What's more, many mail servers and other software applications couldn't handle unfamiliar domain name extensions. So most corporates thought better of it. And many of those that did apply had purely defensive motives. Nevertheless, about three hundred of the 1,500 new TLDs approved by ICANN were brand TLDs.
Where one leads, others follow
All the pointers are that 2021 will be very different, however. A number of brand TLDs from the 2012 crop have since shown the benefits of having your own extension. Look at group.bnpparibas or home.barclays, for example. The software obstacles have been removed and studies have confirmed that the search engine performance of brand TLDs can be just as good as that of other extensions. Research for ICANN by SIDN Labs has also demonstrated that more extensions can be created without affecting the stability of the internet.
Cost and return
Many observers are also expecting the cost of a brand TLD to be lower this time around. Fees were high in 2012 mainly because of the need to make provision for liability claims. In practice, the new TLDs didn't cause problems or trigger claims, so there's no reason for the pattern to be repeated. What's more, the business case is much easier to quantify now that there are working examples.
2021 is closer than you think
2021 isn't actually very far off. A sound TLD application requires considerable consultation, preparation and planning. After all, running your own extension depends on a multi-year vision and the involvement of stakeholders in the organisation's commercial, technical and legal departments. And there are bound to be bumps in the road, which take time to smooth out. For example, few company names are truly unique, as tour operator TUI found when their application was opposed by the Ghanaian province of the same name.
Want to know more?
As the company behind .nl, SIDN is very much at home in the world of new TLDs. If you'd like to know more about branded extensions, feel free to get in touch. You can mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on +31 657 045407.