2014 is going to be a landmark year for the Internet as the oldest and most basic form of user online navigation gets a major overhaul. The domain names that marketers and end users have relied on since the Internet's inception—extensions like .com, .net, and .org—will no longer be the only game in town. New generic top-level domains (gTLDs), including extensions such as .app, .sports, .club, .healthcare and many more, have already started to launch.
However, bringing those new extensions to market is more complicated than slapping on a price tag and hanging a for sale sign. It's been a multiyear process already; and, despite some hiccups, the organization that governs the Internet and is managing the rollout, ICANN, has tried to make it fair for everyone involved. Accordingly, introducing domains under a new extension is a multistep process that's designed to include protections for trademark holders and give average users a fair shake at getting the names they want.
Every marketer should understand the two important phases under this process: the Sunrise and the Landrush periods. ICANN mandates that a Sunrise period lasting at least 30 days must take place for every new domain extension that launches. During that timeframe, trademark holders are given an opportunity to claim domains that are associated with their marks before anyone else is able to register them. If multiple parties are seeking the same domain, disputes will be arbitrated or will go to auction at the end of the Sunrise period.
The Landrush period is optional, but almost always used by new registries. During this timeframe, premium domains are offered at a premium price. They might include generic terms or category-defining terms that could give instant credibility to an online brand—a tactic used by sites such as Hotels.com or Cars.com.
The Sunrise and Landrush periods are the only times you'll ever be able to purchase a domain directly from registries, the organizations that manage domains and make sure they direct users to the correct websites when typed or clicked in a browser. After Sunrise and Landrush comes general availability—the time when anyone can buy a domain from a registrar, companies such as GoDaddy or 1&1.
You'll want to be engaged long before general availability or risk having the perfect new domain slip through your fingers. Months or years down the road, it'll likely cost much more to purchase that same name on the secondhand market, so it's important to pay attention now so you know your options and can make fully informed decisions to either purchase now or watch from the sidelines.
As you navigate the tidal wave of new domains, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
1. Start early
Take the first step (it's free).
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