Last week’s announcement outlining the new corporate vision of Sergey and Larry for Google came with little fanfare or fireworks. In fact, it came in much like many other Google announcements that have shaped their business. If you missed it, here is a recap: Google announced a corporate restructuring, forming an umbrella company called Alphabet run by co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin while naming a new CEO to the core business of Google.
Last quarter, Google posted $17.7 billion in sales, 90% of which was attributed to advertising it sold through search, partner websites, YouTube and Android. Google recorded $4.3 billion in profits last quarter, and it has $61 billion in cash. Investors have rewarded the company for its financial success by sending the stock soaring 25% this year. Shares rose another 6% while investors popped champagne and bought mega yachts after Monday’s announcement.
But what most investors and analysts didn’t see, was a small new URL used by the just launched Alphabet company. Searching for information, it would be easy to assume you just needed to type abc.com. However, that would land you at the homepage of the ABC network. “Okay well then it must be alphabet.com,” you’re thinking. “That makes sense.” Well, wrong again. Alphabet.com is BMW’s car leasing business. Google’s Alphabet is actually using www.abc.xyz as their main URL. But what is this .xyz extension and why did Google choose it?
These three characters represent one part of a quiet revolution that’s been happening on the Internet for nearly two years.
Until 2014, if you wanted to register a web address, you were limited to only 22 types of generic ‘Top-Level Domains’ (gTLDS) or to describe them in a less jargony way, the letters immediately following the final dot in an Internet address.
Of those 22 the most popular and well known was (and still is) .com. However in late 2013, after years of debate and development the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN, the organization responsible for making sure the Internet works) resolved to expand the number of gTLDs and launch potentially thousands of new domain extensions, thereby transforming the way people surf the web.
These new gTLDs give companies and communities the chance to operate under a name of their choosing, which helps enhance competition, innovation and consumer choice. The new domains also provide an opportunity for people to stand out from the crowded Internet world. To date, there are over 500 available gTLDs available for registration by Internet users with another 500 scheduled for launch over the next year or two.
New gTLDs fall into four categories with some being available to all, while others are more restricted.
Geographic: Any new gTLD that is specific to a geographical area – whether a country, city, or continent. Examples include .Berlin, .NYC, .Madrid, .Africa.
Community: New gTLDs meant to be used for the benefit of specific groups and relate to any type of community, whether religious, interest, profession, charity, or other. Examples include .LGBT, .Islam, .bank, .med and our very own .ski.
Brand: New gTLDs that relate directly to a trademarked brand and are used to help strengthen the brand by providing brand-specific domain extensions to the company. Examples include .AIG, .Samsung, .BestBuy, .JCP.
Generic: Any generic term used outside of the other three categories. Often, generic term applications have a mixture of brand, closed, open, restricted, and sometimes community and geographic. Examples of generic TLDs include .bike, .car, .app, .eco, .film and .xyz.
New gTLDs have been quietly growing over the last two years and have been adopted by those who wanted or needed a great web address but couldn’t find one in the existing 22 gTLDS for their personal or business web site. Not finding the domain name you want or finding it only to discover it is for sale by someone is pretty common these days. According to Versign’s June 2015 Domain Name Industry Brief there are approximately 117 million .com domain names in use today. In December 2013, WhoAPI, a domain data analysis startup, revealed that every possible combination of four-letter .com domain names had been registered. From AAAA.com to ZZZZ.com, all 456,976 combinations have been exhausted. The three-character .com domains have been used up since 1997.
An analysis completed by nTLDstats.com shows only 7 million registered names exist across the 500 current available new gTLD extensions, which means an average of 14,000 exist in each new extension. The numbers don’t lie, making it clear how important Alphabet using abc.xyz is to the future of the Internet.
Google with its vast resources and wealth chose not to stick with the status-quo when launching Alphabet. Instead Google decided to take advantage of availability in the market of new gTLDs. With no fanfare and one click of a purchase button, Google did something bigger than just register a new domain name- they did something akin to the butterfly effect. This small event has already, and will continue to, have large, widespread consequences for choices on the Internet.
Firstly. Google’s move shows us that the saying “.com is king” might not be true anymore. When the world’s largest, and arguably most influential, Internet company decides not to pay homage to the king – others will follow.
Secondly. Google has instantly made it cool for companies of any size to consider something other than .com without fear of missing out. Of course Google is by no means the first company to take a bet on new gTLDs, but it is a highly influential company and one that is most ingrained in modern culture.
Thirdly. Google put to rest the notion that using a new gTLD is bad for a business’ search engine rankings and web traffic. Publicly, Google has stated on its Web Master Central Blog that “Overall, our systems treat new gTLDs like other gTLDs (like .com & .org)”. However this hasn’t stopped many in the search, domain and marketing community from disparaging new gTLDs.
If all this wasn’t enough, Google has built their own domain name registration business that sells new and existing gTLDs to Internet users. But more importantly, Google has invested millions of its own dollars in becoming the registry owner for over 100 new gTLDs, including .Google, .android and .chrome.
The media power of Google alone has brought the attention of new gTLDs to key industry bloggers and placed them firmly into the light of major media outlets such as Techcrunch, Forbes and ABC News. Already the increased exposure is helping people consider alternatives to .com.
We can expect more fanfare as businesses launch and brands switch to new gTLDs.
NTLDstats.com shows that in the two days following the abc.xyz announcement, over 20,000 new .xyz registrations occurred.
If that’s not the butterfly that caused a typhoon, I don’t know what is.