A year and a half after rolling out the first new generic top-level domain (gTLD), over 600 new domains have been delegated and about five million new domain names have been registered in the new gTLDs. Despite these impressive numbers, the feeling is that the average consumer is still unaware of this massive expansion of the Internet. However, there are some indications that the tide is turning.
In the current season of the HBO comedy “Silicon Valley,” fictional tech giant Hooli announced its innovative new program Hooli XYZ. Alongside the fictional announcement, HBO launched a fictional site for the new company. Although a cross-promotional website reflecting this fictional venture is not anything new, the marketing and legal wizards at HBO had the foresight to set up the fake page at www.hooli.xyz, utilizing the .XYZ domain. Instead of redirecting to an hbo.com subdomain or a Tumblr page set up for the show, HBO took the initiative to explore the new gTLD space, which seems only fitting for its fictional corporate character.
Other tech-related media appear to be adopting the new gTLDs as well, including the upcoming sci-fi thriller “Self/Less” (to be released by Focus Features), which advertises a domain name of www.outlive.life. Although that domain name redirects to a Tumblr page, the marketing idea behind www.outlive.life is simple: pick a name that is catchy and that people will remember. For years, many film studios have adopted domain names of "TITLEthemovie.com" to advertise their upcoming releases online. The New gTLD program will allow studios to move away from this tired formula by allowing marketing teams to find new avenues of expression in domain names. Even if studios want to stick with a more formulaic approach, .MOVIE will be open for general availability in a few weeks and it’s possible that studios will adopt that domain and retreat from the .COM space.
The exploration of the new gTLDs is not limited to fictional worlds or artistic products. In one of the most prominent displays of a new gTLD so far, Google rolled out its GOOGLE domain in an inspired April Fools’ Day joke. Inverting its homepage operating at www.com.google for one day only, Google was able to draw wide public attention to the new gTLD program in a creative way.
Although new gTLD registrations are ever-increasing, it does not appear that they have reached the tipping point of consumer recognition. However, as new gTLDs are increasingly adopted through smart marketing campaigns, companies should expect consumers to become more comfortable with the expanded domain name space and, in turn, expect forward-looking brands to embrace new gTLDs as a matter of course.