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Analysis: Will new domains be helpful or confusing?
(IDG) -- The problem with last week's decision by the organization that manages the Internet domain name system to add seven new top-level domains (TLD) is that no one really knows whether it's a gift or a curse.
Will the addition of domains such as .biz and .museum make it easier for users to navigate the Internet, or will that become more confusing? And for businesses, will the expanded number of TLDs give them a better chance at getting desirable URLs or complicate the process of protecting their corporate trademarks? The answers are far from clear, according to analysts and corporate IT managers.
"This is not created to make an average company's life easier--absolutely not," says Audrey Apfel, an analyst at Gartner Group. "I think it makes life worse." Obtaining URLs under the new domains will be an expensive proposition: Gartner estimates companies will spend an average of about $70,000 to maintain a domain-name strategy that would include registering variants of the names they want to protect.
Change in a .com world
And whether companies will even use the domain names they buy is unclear. In the commercial space, says David Scott Lewis, an analyst at Meta Group, the argument between the established .com domain and the upstart .biz TLD "is kind of a moot point: dot-com is it."
In last week's decision, the board of directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) also approved the addition of .info, .name, .pro, .aero, and .coop domains. ICANN still needs to complete negotiations with the companies and organizations that are looking to manage registries for the new TLDs, and the domains aren't expected to come online until the middle of next year.
When that happens, the new domains are "probably going to be very confusing to everyone, at least to begin with," says Bobby Chowdhury, chief technology officer at United Media in New York. The domains may have some value down the road, Chowdhury says, but for now he doesn't see them benefiting his company.
Good URL hunting?
The group selected by ICANN to run the .biz domain says it plans to make that domain what .com was originally intended to be--"a space on the Internet specifically for business," says Ken Hansen, director of corporate development at NeuStar. NeuStar and Melbourne IT will run the .biz registry through a new joint venture called NeuLevel.
A .biz registrant will have to self-certify that it's a business or that it intends to use the domain for commercial purposes, Hansen says.
Richard Villars, an analyst at IDC, says the new domains may improve the process that users have to go through to find information on the Internet, as long as the new domains don't become corrupted with improper registrations. "Shortcuts like this ... will make life easier over time," he says.
But David Curle, a director and lead analyst at Outsell, a consultancy firm, says he wonders how end users will know whether to type in .com, .biz, or some other URL suffix to find the Web sites they're looking for. "The result is going to be a very haphazard collection of domains that is really going to create more confusion than anything else," Curle says.
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