Top-level domains to soon increase in number, diversity

The internet is chock full these days, and if you want to stand out and compete you need not only a great website but also a memorable—and preferably short—domain name.

If you try to register your chosen domain name today with a .com or even a country-specifc extension and you'll inevitably find that it's already taken. Around 110 million .com websites are registered, which leaves the option of settling for another so-called top-level domain (TLD) such as .co.uk, .org or .net, or compromising and using a longer name for your site.

However, the web is about to get a whole raft of new TLDs such as .london, .mail and .dentist. Even if you already own a .com or .co.uk domain, you'll do well to pre-register one or more of the new domain names that are appropriate for your site before the prime candidates get snapped up by savvy website owners.

More specific extensions

Since 2003, there have been just 22 TLDs and most are geographic. Starting soon, though, there will be a whopping 1400 new TLDs, with around 700 available to consumers and businesses—the rest are largely brands such as .microsoft, .ferrari and others which only those companies will be able to register and use.

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is the organization responsible for releasing the new names but you will be able to apply for a domain name with one of the new TLDs from 1&1, Go Daddy, 123-reg and other companies that sell domains.

This means that even if bluelagoonhotel.com is taken you might be able to register bluelagoon.hotel since .hotel is one of the new TLDs. As well as business categories such as .florist, there are also other names such as .ski, .wedding and .photography which could be either a business or a hobby site.

Alternatively, if you want a geographic domain name you could pre-register Collins.london if you'd always wanted collins.co.uk but the domain was already taken.

If you'd prefer a non-geographic name that still tells people you're a business, there are .ltd and .limited options. You'll also be able to register .mobile, .web, .online, .site and .website.

Google has said that websites using the new TLDs will rank highly as long as the content on the site matches the name, so Annabelscake.shop would be a bad choice if the site doesn't contain lots of information on which cakes you can buy from Annabel's cake shop.

If you want to find out which TLDs are available, the best way to do it is to visit 1&1's site where you can preregister a domain name. There's also a suggestion search engine which will launch imminently that allows you to enter keywords and find out which of the 700-odd New TLDs will best suit your website.

We spoke to Neal McPherson, Product Manager of Domains at 1&1 who said that there was no specific timescale for when you'll be able to buy the new TLDs, but some of the earliest would be .investments, .career, .menu and .camera and these should be available before the end of the year.

More confusing for customers?

One of the many issues with the new TLDs is that people are used to the .com and other geographical domain names. While the Trademark Clearing House should stop Joe Public from registering Harrods.mobile, the new system is bound to be used and abused by criminals looking to set up phishing sites.

In theory, new rules should mean fraudulent sites are taken down within weeks rather than months, but it's still worth being careful before entering your details once the new domain names are in use.

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