The Test of Time

FairWinds Partners —  June 11, 2013

For those still unsure about whether to plan for new generic top-level domains (gTLDs), consider where the world was when the Internet was just starting out as a commercial space.

In 1995, Wired published an article by Newsday reporter Joshua Quittner, who wanted to know why there was no mcdonalds.com on the Internet:

“Are you finding that the Internet is a big thing?” asked Jane Hulbert, a helpful McDonald’s media-relations person, with whom I spoke a short while ago.

Yes, I told her. In some quarters, the Internet is a very big thing.

I explained a little bit about what the Big Thing is, and how it works, and about the Net Name Gold Rush that’s going on. I told her how important domain names are on the Internet… 

Sound familiar?

Mr. Quittner ended up registering mcdonalds.com himself after McDonald’s didn’t seem to know what to do about the available domain.

“I don’t have anything for you, and I probably won’t have anything for you,” she confessed. “I’ve left a lot of voicemail for people, but no one seems to know anything about it.” Jane Hulbert said she’d keep checking around, but she didn’t seem hopeful that we could get to the bottom of this domain-name thing. “You’ll probably just have to do your story without it,” she said. “It probably won’t be the end of the world.”

McDonald’s eventually bought the domain name back from Mr. Quittner, who donated the proceeds to charity.

Fast-forward almost 20 years, and McDonald’s is ready for the next Big Thing, with an application in for a new top level domain – .MCDONALDS.

Every once in a while, truly major changes disrupt the status quo in communications, advertising, and trademark protection, altering the way we look at business models. There will always be early adopters and there will always be stragglers. Don’t be a straggler as the Internet landscape shifts again to include new gTLDs – the space to the right of the dot.

Even if your company did not apply for its own .BRAND (each application cost $185,000, after all), it can still be an early player by formulating a strategy that allows the company to adapt as the new Internet landscape begins to take a more defined shape. Applicants and non-applicants alike need to look at which second-level domains (to the left of the dot) to register in generic gTLDs. Don’t assume that you can ignore extensions such as .NYC and .MUSIC – they may be hot real estate down the line. They may turn into your version of mcdonalds.com.

In the 1990s, people were asking “what is the Internet, anyway?”, and now, the Internet is taking another major leap by expanding its real estate.  Hopefully, we’ve learned a few things about emerging communications platforms in the last two decades that will spur business to better prepared for the .FUTURE.