Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has opened up the internet space by allowing the registration of generic top-level domains (gTLDs) and Indian business are queuing up to get their own space on the world wide web. By end of 2012 domain names like .tata, .reliance, .infosys, .wipro or .sbi could be a reality.
Currently the popular top-level domains on the internet are .com, .net, .org and .edu among 22 other TLDs along with country specific domain names like India’s .in.
In June last year ICANN announced that it would allow registration of custom web addresses in the gTLD programme. Peter Dengate Thrush, Chairman ICANN Board of Directors mentioned that this move would ‘usher the internet into a new age’. That may very well be true as Indian businesses and firms are trying hard to secure their spot on internet’s latest realty boom.
While anyone is allowed to apply for these gTLDs, application for registration comes at a hefty price. ICANN charges $1,85,000 or about just over 1 crore rupees for the application of one top-level domain.
Maintaining the domain will be costly affair too with $25,000 or about Rs. 14 lakh as annual renewal fees. And if an application is rejected, the application fees are lost. Additionally, if more than one bidder applies for the same gTLD, an auction will ensue. If an applicant loses the bidding the application fees are forgone.
gTLDs will allow businesses to register domain names like .bank, .online, .pepsi, .reliance, .bata, .adani, etc. Directi, an Indian firm, has invested over $30 million or about Rs. 165 crore in an attempt to secure 31 gTLDs which include .law, .app, .shop, .music, .hotel, .doctor, .bank, .deals, .website and more.
But their spending spree just doesn’t end at the application fee. Directi will go head to head with international organizations and conglomerates to battle it out in the auctions for domains which have been applied for by more than one bidder. For example, the .bank gTLD will go under the hammer as Directi will bid for it along with American Banking Association and other heavyweights.
Needless to say, established internet giants like Google are also pulling all stops to grab internet’s newest realty space. In an official blog post, Google announced that they are looking at not only grabbing obvious gTLDs like .google and .youtube but also eyeing popular and creative ones like .lol. Rediff reported that big Indian brands like Tata, SBI, Reliance and Mahindra & Mahindra are believed to have already applied for these domain names.
Registering a gTLD could also mean significant financial gain for an individual or company holding a prized string. For example ICICI, HDFC, SBI and Axis are some of the leading banks in India. Their websites are icicibank.com, hdfcbank.com, sbi.co.in and axisbank.com.
One can only wonder what price these industry leading corporate giants would pay to own a .bank gTLD. Similarly for an online shopping portal like Flipkart which had revenues exceeding Rs. 50 crore in 2010-11, shelling out a few crores for a .shop gTLD could very well be on the agenda.
Noticeably there are a huge monetary risks involved in registering a gTLD. But with risks come rewards and the gain potential to owning and operating a gTLD is hard to ignore.
A domain ending with .tata will definitely add to the trust factor and goodwill of the brand, company and the website. When you know someone is paying crores of rupees just to register and maintain a website, you know they mean business.
With Indians increasingly turning online to shop, surf and search, gTLDs could very well be the distinguishing factor between the big and small players in the online market place.