A new gold standard in domain names or something else?

The rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. This seems to be the common feeling on “Main Street” the world over as both first and third world economies attempt to dig them out of the recent financial meltdown.

But, even some of the most cash-strapped small businesses could always count on one thing to help them get their business online: Cheap domain names.

Depending on the registrar, new domains could be purchased for as little as $8-35 for a year or more. Purchasing a domain name is usually a great investment and great way to begin growing your business online.

However, the problem was that many SMBs got to the party late allowing cybersquatters to horde a good deal of the best-worded domain names.

Indeed, it’s amazing to consider that as many as 60% of American businesses do not yet have a website. This implies a missed opportunity for the U.S. superpower struggling to find its feet again in a competitive global tech economy. Yet even countries such as India face the same challenge with only a small minority of SMBs online.

And, in January 2012, the entry fee to get a new domain will be raised from $8 to $185,000 if businesses wish to take advantage of one of the greatest ‘branding’ opportunities in the history of the Internet, according to some industry pundits.

Early next year Icann, the controlling body for new domain names will releases a new set of domain extensions that will for the first time allow maximum company branding.

These could include extensions such as: .virtualinternet, .coke, .apple, .london, .cloud, .england, and .ladygagga.

However, it will not only cost a small, medium or enterprise company $185,000 to buy them; it will also cost $25,000 per year to maintain them.

“Trademark owners would be allowed to claim their names for use in addresses during “sunrise” periods following the rollout. These protections have been strengthened since the proposal was outlined,” said the New York Times.

Icann hopes that the steep cost of purchasing these domains may prevent the cybersquatting debacle that haunted the early days of the Internet and indeed still persists up to this day. Naysayers predict that cybersquatters have deep enough pockets to stimulate a new round of domain hoarding.

Conversely, the dawn of these new branded domain extensions lead many enthusiasts to conclude that it will spark new business models in combination with revolutionary technologies for mobile Internet and cloud computing.

Icann has been sitting on this idea since 1998 but its only gained momentum in the last three years or so.

“Planning is complicated by the fact that brand owners do not know how consumers will react,” said the New York Times.

“Icann has already been adding suffixes one by one, in advance of the big bang it envisions. Most recently, it approved .xxx for sexually explicit sites. With a few exceptions, however, marketers prefer .com over other extensions, like .web, .net or suffixes that represent a specific country.”

Virtual Internet would like to know what you think? Are any of you I.T. decision-makers considering purchasing a new top-level domain in 2012? Let us know!

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