Will the new gTLDs could change regional identities online?

By Stuart Fuller


The former Sales Director of NetNames used to take great delight every Friday afternoon of walking out of his office and randomly picking a member of the sales team for his weekly quiz.  The format was always the same and woe betide anyone who didn’t get maximum marks.

“What is the TLD for Taiwan?”

“Where in the world is the TLD registry for dotMP?”

“What is the most popular ccTLD in the world today?”

Consequently, I and a number of our longer serving members of staff have almost total recall of nearly 300 Top Level Domains and can place them on a map of the world (for those who don’t know the answers to the above they are dotTW, Northern Mariana Islands and Tokalu’s dotTK) within seconds.  Whilst such knowledge soon grows tiresome for people in the pub to listen to, it does come in useful when talking to clients and gives us the air of expertise, or maybe that we really should get out more!

Some of the ccTLDs naturally became vanity domain names.  Any aspiring master of the decks surely owns their of Djibouti TLD (dotDJ), organisations in the media have readily adopted the domain name of the tiny Pacific Island of Tuvalu, dotTV and which feline lover wouldn’t want to register a domain name to preserve the name of their pet in cyberspace forever with a dotCAT, originally launched for the region of Catalunya in Spain.  There are of course those Top Level Domains that simply bemuse and baffle us all.  Ten bonus points if you can tell me where dotAQ, dotPW and a dotSX can be found in the world.

But the new gTLD programme has made life a bit easier for us.  Whilst ICANN didn’t allow any country-specific names to be applied for during the first wave of the expansion of the Internet, it did allow related names.  So that is why we now have dotIrish, dotKiwi and dotScot available to register.  The launch of dotScot, dotWales and dotIrish has led to some demand for equality for the English.  Whilst dotUK represents our glorious isles, England doesn’t have a domain name of its own.  Registrations so far have been muted – dotKiwi for instance has nearly 12,000 against the dotNZ registries 660,000, whilst the Irish Top Level Domain, dotIE has around 206,000 registrations against 1,100 in the new dotIrish gTLD.

In a few weeks we will see the launch of the dotSwiss Top Level Domain which in itself is an interesting proposition.  DotCH may be the familiar moniker for those in the domain name world, but would it be globally-recognised as representing Switzerland?  In a survey around my local pub in London I was told it represented the Czech Republic (“dotCheck isn’t it?”), Chechnya (not a country) and Chile (logical).  Less than 50% of those asked identified it as Switzerland’s Top Level Domain, whereas dotSwiss will be available exclusively to organisations which have a connection to Switzerland. The other interesting angle here is the term “Swiss” also refers to the national airline of Switzerland, who use the domain name www.swiss.com already.  Whilst they haven’t played a noticeable part in the application process (it is being run by the Federal Office of Communications), there are potential benefits from them being able to use some of the generic names within the TLD such as www.fly.swiss, www.tickets.swiss or www.business.swiss. Whilst it may take some time before dotSwiss challenges the registration numbers of the existing ccTLD, currently closing in on the two million mark, it could certainly grow at a faster rate, being more meaningful both in terms of readability and potentially searchability.

Registration numbers of the geographical related new gTLDs will increase over time once questions around usage and impact on search rankings have been proven.  New businesses going online in those regions would be wise to register both in the ccTLD and the new gTLD, especially if they can utilise the geographic keyword as part of their registration such as www.cheaphotels.berlin or www.tulipsin.amsterdam.  Evidence that such names, used correctly, have a major impact on search will prove to be a positive for the whole programme and who knows, could just be the tipping point that we have been waiting for.