The internet, as we have all come to know it, is about to go through some fairly significant changes. Most people have grown accustomed to the 22 or so generic domain suffixes available on the web, like the common .com or .edu or .gov. Soon though, a potentially infinite slew of new suffixes will become available. This is because last year the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) opened up the domain web space to allow for new suffixes. Forbes estimates there are now close to 500 suffixes available, with 900 more potentially going live within the next few months.
This has been seen as a very controversial move by tech analysts, and numerous problems are already being anticipated. One thing that is already upsetting a lot of people is that domains such as .sucks or .gripe are becoming available, which appear to actually be designed to invite negative feedback. In order to protect their reputations, companies are already buying up these domains as a pre-emptive defensive maneuver. Because of the importance of brand management and reputation, and the damaging results that could come about due to this change, J. Scott Evans, associate general counsel at Adobe Systems, says “I basically think it’s extortion.” A lot of others seem to agree with him, and the fact that new domains can cost up to 100 times the typical domain fee seems to support his opinion.
Another even more problematic aspect of this new change is compatibility. Analysts are concerned that a lot of the new domain names won’t work with existing devices and software, as some browsers may reject some of the new domain names as invalid. This could potentially require significant software revisions, and huge investments, to fix. Brent London, Google’s representative for the working group in charge of sorting out the problem of “universal acceptance,” explained, “New types of domains and email addresses break stuff. Just to send an email from one person to another, you’d find yourself in a situation where an operating system, mail servers, routers, mail service providers, security software, all need to work properly.”
Clearly, the next few years will be a very important time for the future of the internet. Experts are still unsure how the technical aspect of these changes will roll out, but one thing is clear: the way companies handle online reputation and brand management is going to change. Now is the time for companies to safeguard the online reputations they have worked so hard to build.