Businesses now have a new way of standing out from the crowd and being identified faster online, thanks to the release of new Top-Level Domain (TLD) names in late 2013.

We caught up with Adrian Kinderis, Vice President of Corporate Development at Neustar – and Chair of the Domain Name Association – to find out what all the fuss is about.

Q: What has changed with the introduction of new TLD names?

Adrian Kinderis (AK): In the past, Australian companies had limited choices in the domain names they could use, with most going for .com.au or .com. But hundreds of new TLDs have been introduced, allowing domain names to shift beyond the traditional .com to .anything. Major brands like Barclays (www.home.barclays) and BNP Paribas (www.mabanque.bnpparibas) now have new branded corners of the web, while other businesses are finding new homes online under new generic words relating to their sector such as .club or .menu, and even their location, such as .sydney or .nyc.

Q: How have the new TLDs taken off? Have they been a success?

AK: As with any new product introduced to a market, there is always a bit of a lead time before they become widely embraced. But we are starting to see the new TLD names becoming more mainstream. Some of the bigger brands and companies are coming on board. Now that new TLDs are entering our consciousness, I think you will start to see a flow on effect.

There has been a strong response to the city names like .sydney, .nyc and .melbourne. The more generic names are taking more time to catch on with some businesses largely because there needs to be a purpose – for example, .film, which is aimed at the niche market of the film industry.

Q: Are domain names still relevant in a time when most people use search to find websites?

AK: Domain names are becoming more and more relevant. The beauty of domain names is that they are a source of truth on the internet. Search isn’t. Search provides you with options and any one option could be a bad one. Trust is key on the internet and domain names can help build that trust.

A domain name is a site name that cannot be changed and must always be you. It allows potential customers to find you again using their address bars. And if they do use the search bars, the domain name will help deliver better search results especially if it’s intrinsically linked to your business operations.

Q: Why should people register new domain names?

AK: According to our estimates, new domain names account for somewhere between 5 to 10 per cent of the cost of an online existence. Even for a small business, in most cases you are looking at anywhere between $50 to $100 for a new TLD domain name, which for most people is incredibly affordable.

The new TLDs allow companies to target their domain names at the audience they are trying to attract. You could, for example, have www.airconditioners.sydney.

This not only helps identify what your business does, but also where you are based. The word to the right of the dot starts to mean something.

The new TLDs also help potential customers get to the content they want faster online. We’ve seen that new TLD websites sometimes appear higher in search results because of their specificity and relevance, and this observation has been backed by research.

For small businesses, the challenge used to be getting a website onto the internet. Now it’s about being found on the internet. Search optimisation has become a game in itself with many people making a living out of it.

The new TLDs will hopefully become a cheaper and more efficient way of getting found, helping businesses avoid drowning in more competitive environments like search or directory mechanisms.

A domain name isn’t everything when it comes to search, but it certainly helps – for example, www.plumber.nyc should gain more weight in a search within New York than www.plumber.com.

Q: Do you see businesses registering the new TLDs as a second domain name or using them to replace their main legacy TLD names?

AK: I don’t believe you should turn off one name and start another. For a long time you will see both running concurrently.

Companies that have done this are starting to see more traffic coming to their new TLD names as opposed to their legacy names. So I do believe that over time you will see a transition across. But in the interim, we are also seeing businesses that have kept their legacy names and are using new TLD names for special promotional purposes or marketing campaigns.

Having one name forwarded onto the other involves a small cost, so it really pays to register a TLD now before it’s gone. You can have it pointed to content and over time, shift that content to become the mainstay of your website.

Q: How do you see new TLDs progressing from here?

AK: Looking ahead, I see a slow acceleration of new TLDs as they start becoming more mainstream. The more new TLDs are shown on billboards and TV commercials, the more they will spread.

The charge will be led by the big brands and as we continue on to the next round of new names being released in around 18 months to two years’ time, we will get even more specific names. Everyone will have a place on the internet.

We could also see new TLD names drive a sense of community on the internet – rather than being .com where you are one in over 100 million, you could be .melbourne where you are one in 10,000.

The options will be endless going forward. Watch this space!

Image: Tips and Tricks by Owen Moore, Licensed under CC BY 2.0