A decision from the Internet Global Coordinator on June 20th ruled that domain names could be sold with an open-ended top-level domain extension. Rather than just .com, .org, .gov, .info, and the dozen or so others that have already been approved, users may start seeing – or creating – sites that end with just about any phrase.
The ruling has stirred some minor controversy, primarily over what extensions users could attach. For example, users could include offensive or highly controversial language in the extensions. However, considering that domain names themselves aren’t regulated for offensive content, the extension should make little difference – and the controversy quickly died out.
More important to SEOs, domain operators, and webmasters is how this might impact the structure of the web and how the search engines function. On the SEO front, very little is likely to change. A Google spokesperson indicated that the company “is experienced in ranking and returning web pages, regardless of top-level domain (TLD).”
While there have been phases when users have trusted certain domain names more, much of the value attributed to .gov extensions or similar doesn’t come from the extension itself but the exclusivity, number of links, and other relevant SEO factors. But what else may change?
For one, users may start turning to the search engines more often. Since there’s a potential for confusion if a lot of non-standard domain extensions are created, users may not be able to track down the intended site as easily, prompting them to visit the search engines – or just referring to a competitor. As users are currently accustomed to .com sites and basically nothing else, it’s unlikely that the new extensions will see extensive use.
It is possible, however, that subdomains may simply be posted on new sites. For example, rather than posting your blog to blog.mycompany.com, you could post it to mycompany.blog. The chosen extension could also potentially become a part of search engine ranking factors, functioning in much the same way that the root portion of the domain already does.
[Sources include: AFP]