What is a domain name?

Richard February 5th 2014

This week has seen the launch of the first new generic top level domain (gTLD) as part of the role out of more than 1000 new suffixes to be released. شبكة. or .Shabaka meaning web in Arabic is the first gTLD to use non Latin script ahead of several Russian and Mandarin based suffixes also set to launch in the next few days.

They are the first of many planned releases after the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) opened up applications to allow commercial businesses to register and run their own TLD's.


Up until recently their were only 22 gTLD's in existence along with country codes such as .uk and .fr which has led to an inevitable shortage of desirable web addresses available for many businesses causing some to suggest ICANN has been slow to react to an inflated web space. Although now that is all set to change, "There are now almost five times more generic Top-Level Domains than there were only a few months ago and that translates to greater consumer choice," informs the President of ICANN's Global Domains Division, Akram Atallah.



The huge expansion of the Domain Name System (DNS) is surely one of the biggest changes to the internet since it was first created but how will it actually effect the web, and will businesses buy into it?


Internet domain registry 'Donuts' certainly believe so, they've raised more than $100 Million to apply for over 300 TDL's (each application costing $185,000 / £113,200) and have successfully secured more than 100 to date. Donuts first round of releases include .gallery, .graphics, .singles, .guru and .plumbing all set for launch in the coming weeks.



Critics have said the move could hurt many small businesses who are concerned with protecting their brand by ensuring they have all suitable domains under their control. At an average of £10 a year per domain and with thousands set for release, the cost of domain brand security could rise pretty swiftly (something companies like Donuts are counting on).


Is the average company really going to register 10's or possibly 100's of domains though? I think not. Sure you'll likely want to grab 1 or 2 of the more relevant ones and larger corporations may go all out but your average business owner has other things to worry about and with all the new naming possibilities about to arrive competition can only come down (except for a few notable exceptions such as .shop). So after an inevitable flurry of interest and a bit of band wagon jumping its highly possible once the new market space has settled that domain name pricing could be driven down to new lows. As with any market, an abundance of product will promote healthy competition between registrars, unless of course one registrar is allowed to gain a monopoly…



An intriguing aspect of the new TLD role out is how it might effect the semantic web. By allowing meaning to be added to a domain as well as the content that sits on it, a whole new set of ideas begin to form about how we might structure web pages in the future to make them more understandable and accessible. By separating content into professions, communities or interests at domain level we instantly see a structure thats never been available before. Stephen Wolfram, creator of the intelligent search engine 'Wolfram Alpha' previously made the suggestion for the .data TLD, he stated "My concept for the .data domain is to use it to create the “data web”—in a sense a parallel construct to the ordinary web, but oriented toward structured data intended for computational use". In the future he see's websites having a standard domain and a .data domain streamlined for automated requests to access data in a standard format.


So its an interesting time for the internet, change is inevitable and some will prosper because of it whilst others get left behind (too busy moaning about change). Im sure we'll see a lot of domain grabbing in the short term and it will be interesting to see how companies take advantage of new website naming possibilities. The real questions lie in the future though, how will the www's address book grow into its new vocabulary and how will it change our views on accessing or making available different types of content, only time will tell.

Author Richard Creative Director

Richard is a designer, whiskey drinker, music lover and Creative Director. After an early career in publishing saw him oversee the production of a range of global titles he turned his eye to digital, managing several design teams in UK agencies before founding Gather with fellow director Paul.