NetNames: A Fragmented Internet Will Be Better For Business?

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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Over half of Internet users think new domain names will make it easier for them to find things online – says a survey with a vested interest

By 2020, the Internet will fragment into ‘communities of interest’, but offer more tools for branding and marketing and speak many more languages thanks to the introduction of new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs), suggests research by NetNames.

The brand protection and domain management agency, which has a vested interest in promoting sales of gTLDs, also says gTLDs are great because people can type them in directly instead of using search engines.

This somewhat-optimistic result is backed up by NetNames’ own resarch, which apparently found that half of Internet users think new gTLDs will make it easier for them to find things online. Eighty percent said new domain names will make them enter a company’s web address directly into their browser rather than use a search engine.

A third of businesses surveyed said that they have applied – or will apply – for Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs).

NetNames CEO Gary McIlraith believes that rather than confuse netizens, new gTLDs will actually increase consumer trust. For example, customers will be sure they will be buying original Nike products when the website address ends in ‘.nike’.

Meanwhile, Yasmin Omer, general manager of ‘.shabaka’ (‘.web’ in Arabic) says this change will be instrumental in bringing the next billion people online.

The language barrier

The very first domain name was registered in 1985, but until recently, very few top-level domains existed; alongside 22 generic ones like ‘.com’ and ‘.org’, there were 280 country code TDLs, but thousands more are now being added, including those in non-Latin scripts.

alexskopjeThe Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) received a total of 1,930 applications for new gTLDs by the June 2012 deadline. For example, the BBC applied for ‘.bbc’, the Guardian for ‘.guardian’ and Google attempted to snap up ‘.google’, ‘.docs’ and ‘.lol’. Broader terms are also set to get unique gTLDs such as ‘.church.’ and ‘.sport’.

London became one of the first cities in the world to launch its own city domain name – ‘.london’ – which has been available since 29 April.

Research by NetNames looks at the impact new gTLDs could have on the Internet over the next six years.

The agency asked 400 businesses and 6000 consumers across the US, UK, Germany and France about their attitudes towards what has been called the biggest change to the Internet since its inception.

99 percent of businesses surveyed thought that new gTLDs would increase Internet fragmentation. At the same time 59 percent of Internet users said the change will make it easier to find relevant content online. This view was much stronger amongst businesses, with 89 percent stating they believed that new gTLDs will help consumers find their website.

95 percent of business respondents felt that having access to new gTLDs will enhance their existing online strategy.

Even though IDNs are not as popular as traditional Latin script domain names – to date, approximately 20 percent of all new gTLD registrations have been for IDNs – the industry expects the number of domains in Chinese, Cyrillic, Japanese and Arabic scripts to increase. 33 percent of companies surveyed said that they have applied or will apply for these.

“The Internet has a native language. It’s not the language of its users, but it’s the language of its creators,” said Omer at the launch event for the report, taking place at the Gherkin in London.

“The next wave of Internet users will come from lower socio-economic backgrounds. They will not have the luxury of speaking more than one language, but they deserve an Internet that speaks in their native tongue.”

At the same event, NetNames announced it will be moving its UK headquarters into the Citigroup Centre in Canary Wharf, London.

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