Why New Top-Level Domains Like .Google Could Spell Trouble

Companies like Google, Amazon, Apple, Australia Post and the Commonwealth Bank are currently competing for a new round of top-level domains -- think new versions of .com and .org like .search, .blog and .app. The argument is that this will make the internet easier to use, but we think it's a bit sketchier than those involved would like to admit. Here's why.

What Is A Top-Level Domain?

A top-level domain is the last part of a URL, often something like .com.au or .org. It's at the top of the domain hierarchy (hence the term "top-level"), and is the first thing your computer looks for when you type in a web address. When you type in lifehacker.com.au, for example, your browser asks your DNS server where it can find the .com nameserver. Your browser then contacts the .com.au nameserver for the lifehacker subdomain, where it finds this web site. You can see an example of this below, courtesy of Wikipedia.

These domain names are all managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), formerly a government organisation but now a private, non-profit entity. ICANN not only manages which top-level domains exist, but also makes sure everything is stable and runs smoothly.

ICANN Is Handing Out New Top-Level Domains, Lottery-Style

A few years ago, ICANN began expanding the number of top-level domains, so porn sites, for example, could use the .xxx domain. Recently, though, it opened this process up so companies can create and apply for custom top-level domains. For example, Google wants to claim .blog, so all blogs created by its Blogger service would have an easy-to-remember .blog domain name. Google also wants .search for obvious reasons, while Amazon wants to claim .book, .music, and .cloud. Allowed domains can range from brands (like .ipad, .kindle, or .gmail) to generic words (.bank, .fun) and geographic locations (.nyc, .paris).

Not all top-level domains will be exclusive, but when a company applies for one, it can choose to make that TLD exclusive to its own pages, as Google hopes to do with .search and .blog. Many of these companies have applied for hundreds of top-level domains, are willing to pay millions of dollars for them, and are preparing for battles over who gets what -- both Google and Amazon are currently fighting over .cloud, for example, and you can bet .app will be subject to fierce competition.

Why The Domain Lottery Is Sketchy

As you can imagine, some people think this lottery is a little ridiculous, and we tend to agree. It might seem innocent enough to give Amazon ownership of the .kindle domain, since the Kindle is its product, but you can easily see how things get more complex when Amazon asking for an exclusive claim to the .book domain, or Google the .search domain.

This potentially opens the door for a lot of unfair treatment. It wouldn't be out of character for Google to float .blog sites to the top of search results, or for the company which owns the .news domain could give preferential treatment to sites that share its political biases. It could easily up being a huge, confusing, and sometimes misleading mess -- and the only ones who benefit are the companies and ICANN, which, despite being a nonprofit, stands to make a lot of money from this endeavour. Photo by MoneyBlogNewz.

These controversial domain applications are still being review, but ICANN has yet to say or do anything that would lead us to believe they won't be accepted. All we can do now is wait and see. What do you think about the new generic top-level domains? Will they make the internet easier to use, or are they only going to benefit companies and confuse users? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below. And, if you're interested in reading more, here are some other articles on the subject:

WATCH MORE: Tech News & Life Hacks

Comments

    i think the whole thing is a ridiculous idea, allowing basically any TLD is just going to create a billion address possibilities for no good reason, it sounds reasonable in its basic form to, for instance, allow ALL blog sites to use .blog, its a simple way to denote a page as a blog easy for everyone to use, but allowing 1 company the .blod TLD means that company a and b and c will all need (need in the business sense of must stand out) there own version of .blog so you end up with .blog, .bloga, .blogb, .blogc and none of the technically need to be blog sites either in this new system

    basically instead of simple TOP LEVEL categories the current TLDs are we are just going to end up with a giant list of possible .things

    i can see why a revamp of the current simpler system cant be enacted ie
    .com for all general websites
    .biz for business front ends
    .blog for blogs
    .xxx for porn etc etc

    if anyone can point a genuine reason for allowing companies essentially free reign of TLD choices, that will benefit users id like to hear it

      essentially, nobody uses the current system as they should. Generally this is the process:
      -if you're a real company, get a .com
      -if you're a non profit, probably get a .org
      -if you are a government agency, use .gov (though not always)
      -if you want to be a fun, use an international tld to spell something (del.icio.us, name.ly, unroll.me, etc)
      There's a smattering of .info and .biz around, but not much. The TLDs are not being used as intended, they're essentially just an arbitrarily limited set of suffixes that gets forced onto your url.

      So the solution: Open up TLDs for more. google is attempting to register .google, among others. After that, you can redirect the entire TLD to their search engine - that is, they're no longer google.com, just google.

      They're not doing it because they necessarily think it'll make things better, they're doing it because the current tld system is broken and cant really be fixed. Think of it as a small-scale trial run.

    Your article is wrong in one area.

    Tell me where and how ICANN will make money out of this? Did you even do the research? the application fee of 185k is not profit nor does this go to ICANN as a revenue.

    Let's just think for a minute here on another topic. The application fee of 185k was to stamp out false bidders. Let's assume the fee was lower say $100 each. How many applications do you think they would of received? I would of lodged one for everything. Can you imagine the admin process for this?

    For people who hate the idea. Can I ask you a question. Pretty much .com is all but taken now. What do you do if you wanted to create a website but the name was taken? Coming from first hand experience the website I wanted was taken by another company for a totally legit different reason and I am stuck with a very stupid .net.au

    I see this expansion no different to adding the 9 to your phone number more than a decade ago. We ran out. It's simple isn't it?

    Also why are people so scare that it's going to create a lot of .gltd? You may remember your favorite website. It surely it's all via bookmarks or search so who cares?

    It orally agree it's not perfect. But nothing in life is.

    Once, I would have been concerned. Back in the days when TLD registries concerned themselves about the closeness of the operation to its TLD request (e.g. business = .com/.co, network provider = .net, etc), this move would have been a disaster. These days, it appears, such rules are long forgotten.

    As "checkyourfacts" suggests most people hit a website these days from a search result or a bookmark, so it really doesn't matter. Taking that argument to its end, there's no real concern any longer about "domains" in the context of TLDs. Uniqueness is the remaining criterion. Conventions will remain important (e.g. education providers are .edu -- although they're not in the UK and NZ, for example). Country TLDs may remain important but as .us never really flew and non-country TLDs (.com, .mil, etc) typically mean "American", even that may not be worth maintaining on the 'who cares?' line.

      Agree wholeheartedly. Anyone who has ever designed a database (and that's all IP adresses are) knows that only one field counts: the ID, and with the internet that is the IP address. If I don't know the exact URL, I will search for it using engine of preference. I also know that for mainstream items like Bunnings, I will just enter bunnings.com.au . That's not going to change. The current top level domains will always (insert caveat here) be king.
      Idiot question - won't IPv6 make the top level domains now be 'infinite'? flame on, but please teach while abusing...
      Pragmatically, where's the issue?

        I think the issue is that despite having a (practiaclly speaking) infinite number of IP addresses, the number of real, practicle, usable URL's is shrinking (hence checkyourfacts being stuck with an ugly .net.au). I can see how a number of very generic top level domains (along the .blog .search lines) would be handy, the value of the more specific ones seems pretty dubious though...

    Anyone feel like we are going back to the compuserve days?

    I think it's a terrible idea - we've just about got over the idea that on offline media we need to put www. in front of everything (I think we all know that if you have lifehacker.com.au on your business cards, that's your web address) and not to mention auto-parsing in email, twitter, facebook etc. Are we really going to have to go back to the cumbersome http:// or www. (or both!) before everything? If google want .blog, they can go out and bloody well buy blog.com.

      Theoretically wouldn't it still remain the same whereas you do not need to enter http:// or www. as a prefix?

      For example you type in google.com (rather than http://www.google.com) and then search. This would allow you just type 'images.google' or search.google' or something along those lines.

      I'd be interested to see how this would flow on to print mediums e.g. "visit our website google.google" look pretty strange.

        Yes, but only if the server hosting the website has the host headers set up in that way. Otherwise, browsing to google.com for example, without the http://www. prefix would return a page not found error. I can't imagine websites that receive a lot of traffic will be set up without these host headers in place. Smaller sites will though

      .info is certainly one with poiattnel, but certain country codes can leave even the .coms behind if you get the right name. The problem can be the expectation that the country code and language match up. English is so widely used that this is less and less of an issue.

    Time for the grammar police

    I really hate it when people say "of" instead of "have"
    e.g." I would of lodged one for everything" as stated by Checkyourfacts.
    Surely you mean "I would HAVE lodged one" or even "I WOULD'VE lodged one"
    End of rant.

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